Archive for November, 2011

You Are What You Eat

November 6, 2011

I have always been a pretty healthy eater, but never have I put my food under microscopic view as I did after my heart went into failure. At that point, food was not my friend, but my enemy. If I ate the wrong food (hence food with too much sodium), it had a direct negative consequence on my heart’s function. Lucky for me, I was raised in a home where my mom cooked dinner pretty much every night. And not just any dinners, healthy dinners. Just as my parents had laid a spiritual foundation in my life, they also laid a healthy lifestyle foundation for me. Everything from eating the right foods (and yes, that means vegetables!!) to good hygiene to taking care of my body to exercising.

Now that I am expecting, it’s very important to me that my child not only be a healthy eater but have a versatile pallet as well. Now, having said that, I am not naive enough to believe he will eat everything I put in front of him, or like everything I cook. But I have to believe there is more than just feeding my child chicken nuggets and fast food.

I have been told by various people (whom are parents) that my child will eat only what he or she wants to and at the end of the day it will be either pizza or chicken nuggets or some type of fast food. I didn’t grow up eating those things multiple times a week. My husband didn’t grow up eating any of those things. So why is it so different with today’s youth? Is it because we have more fast food restaurants available than health care facilities? Is it because we have become a nation of convenience?

Obesity and poor eating habits are one of the big risk factors for heart disease. It’s really easy to sit in our cushy chair in front of the tv and say “that won’t happen to me or my child”. If you truly believe it couldn’t happen to you or your bundle of joy, then here are a couple of facts you need to pay attention to. Heart disease affects over 58 million Americans and results in more than 40% of all deaths in the U.S., more lives than the next seven leading causes of all deaths combined. Every 33 seconds another American DIES from heart disease. One out of two women will die of heart disease, and one out of four men.

The Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition says that eight out of ten leading causes of death in the U.S. have a nutrition or alcohol component. Failure to pay attention to nutrition significantly increases one’s risk for heart disease, obesity and diabetes just to name a few. According to the CDC, 17% of children and adolescents are obese. And statistics show that obese children and teenagers have a 70% chance of being obese adults. All you need to do is watch one episode of The Biggest Loser to see how some of these health implications play out.

The link between nutrition and heart disease is so profound. Proper nutrition is the key lifestyle measure in combatting significant problems and lowering one’s risk for heart disease. I could go on and on about the list of factors that contribute to childhood obesity and poor eating habits, but I feel it starts at home. It starts with the parents. It starts with the foundation we lay for our children. And from a nutritional standpoint, it starts with what you put on the dinner table. In the time it takes you to preheat your oven and cook those chicken nuggets, I could have a quick marinade or rub on a chicken and be pulling that healthier option off the grill. Children won’t eat unhealthy snacks if you don’t have them in your house. And since when did it become the child’s decision and not the parents on if they can drink sugar-filled sodas?

Now, I’m not saying that cooking healthy is easy, and it’s definitely not convenient at times. And I’m not saying it’s wrong to have pizza night every once and awhile, or even to let your kids experience a happy meal. And I’m not saying I’m going to be perfect at this. What I am saying is this should not be the norm in your house. I personally don’t feel that chicken nuggets should be the only thing a child will eat. I find it hard to believe that there is not one single vegetable your child will eat. And with my friends who are parents and love to cook, I see such a difference in what their kids will eat. I attribute a lot of that to them getting their children involved in the kitchen and grocery shopping, and introducing their kids to a wide variety of foods. Would your 5-year old eat duck? My cousin’s child will, or at least she will try it.

We have the ability to mold the type of adult our children will grow up to be. It is not only our duty, it is our responsibility. I have to battle heart disease. Not because of bad eating habits, because of factors out of my control. I don’t want my child to face the medical hardships I’ve had to.┬áMy child will not be a chicken nugget!!