Childhood obesity is a problem in our country. One in three American children are overweight or obese. That’s a staggering statistic and its enough to make any mother concerned. So along with focusing on home-cooked meals and family dinner time, I’ve also been on a campaign to teach my daughter about healthy nutrition.
She’s only four-years-old, but Brenna and I are discussing the nutrients you get from food. We’ve talked about things that make you full, but don’t make you big and strong. We identify healthy foods like fruits and veggies versus unhealthy choices like candy and potato chips. I try to give her basic working knowledge that will make us a healthier family.
Apparently, there’s one more lesson that I need to introduce. Everything in moderation.
I want to have a healthy little girl, but that doesn’t mean I can’t give in to my own food temptations every once in a while, does it? According to Brenna, that’s exactly what it means.
Last week, I was a little stressed and we had a hectic schedule. There was a lot going on and I gave in to one my life’s greatest weaknesses: french fries. I know, our sister-site Blisstree is hanging their head in sham. It wasn’t just french fries, it was french fries from Steak n’ Shake.
My daughter and I went to the fast food chain for lunch. I dug in to some cheese fries and she devoured chicken tenders. Given the surroundings, I obviously wasn’t discussing nutritional content during our meal. I just thought it was a quick bite to eat before we ran another errand.
Then, Brenna’s stomach started to hurt. She could hear it gurgling away as it digested the less-than-nutritional meal. Suddenly, her eyes got suspicious.
“Mom, is this place healthy?” She asked in a rather loud voice that other patrons couldn’t help but overhear.
“Well hunnie,” I tried to explain, “It’s not healthiest choice. Maybe your belly doesn’t like fried foods. They aren’t bad for you if you just have them every once a while, but you shouldn’t have a lot of them.”
Degrees of moderation are lost on pre-schoolers. She really deals in absolutes.
“Mom, how could take me some place that doesn’t have healthy food?” She demanded, again attracting some serious attention.
“Well Bean, we’re in a hurry. And this was a nice, fast place to stop.” I was really grasping for straws here. I felt very uncomfortable trying to justify my own weakness for cheese fries.
Displaying thoughtfulness that I’m sure I’ll be proud of later, she reminded me, “Fruit is really fast, mom.”
The entire incident was admittedly pretty funny and will probably keep me out of Steak n’ Shake for quite a while. But it brings out a couple great parenting truths. For one, you have to practice what you preach. It doesn’t matter how often I discuss health foods and nutritious choices, if my daughter sees me eating junk food, she’ll do the same.
Another great lesson learned is that kids are listening to what you say and they’re taking you at your word. When I tell my little girl to drink a glass of milk with dinner because the calcium makes her bones strong, she will accept it as truth that she must have calcium every day or her bones won’t grow like they should. She won’t accept a day off of the milk routine, because she would assume her bones will get weak without calcium.
It looks like if I want to keep my daughter on a healthy path, I’m going to have to walk it with her. And I have to admit, if you’re trying to be more nutritionally conscious, let a young child know what foods are healthy and what foods aren’t. They’ll point it out for you over and over and over again.
Tablespoon of sugar in my coffee? “Isn’t that the same stuff that’s in candy, mom?” Yes, yes it is. And I now have my own little dietitian reminding me of these things.