Healthy eating begins at home. Unhealthy eating also begins at home. Humans are creatures of habit. When you see, your parents doing something over time you find yourself doing the same thing. When you grow up you find yourself saying I would never parent like my parent but overtime you find yourself in that same cycle you swore you would not succumb too. Whether you prepare meals every night or grab fast food more than you cook, your kids are watching. How does this correlate to our family and being overweight? Per the CDC adults over the age of 20 who are overweight, including obesity are at 70% and children from ages 2 – 19 range from 9%- 20%. As well as the Obesity Action Coalition reporting that children of overweight parents have an 80% chance of also being overweight. While we think that, yes this makes sense because of genetics but research has shown that the link between your genetics and weight is only a small percent. Family environment plays a huge role in your food decisions, beginning early as age 2. What we do together, how we spend our time together and how we eat together matters.
Your family environment plays a key role in how you develop into your adulthood. This is the same for eating habits. If you grew up eating mostly fast food, you will more likely choose grabbing a quick bite over cooking at home. If you grew up eating home cooked meals, but they are mostly processed foods, you can still be at risk for obesity as well as other health issues as time goes on. Whether you grew up eating fruits and vegetables can alter whether you choose some healthy over a bag of potato chips. All these things shape our eating habits and our health. Your obesity can absolutely have something to do with your genes, but if you are not making healthier choices, your weight issues can become an issue that you have helped cause or maybe you as the parent help cause in your adolescent.
Children mirror what they see, the good and the bad. If you have vegetables on your plate that you’re eating, your child will more likely want to try them because they see you eating them. The same goes for if they see you making unhealthy food decisions, they’re going to want some. Not to say you cannot treat yourself to a slice of cake or a bag of chips, but if that is the only thing you keep on hand to snack on you are setting yourself up for obesity issues for not only yourself but your kids.
Kids have no choice in what they eat. As a parent, you set the road map on how to be healthy. If you keep that perspective, you will not only help combat their risk of obesity but also help make healthy changes in your life. Also, try and plan to eat meals together. This way when kids see you making healthy choices at dinner time they will follow suit. This can lead to a child who eats healthy into an adult who eats healthy and can be passed on to the next generation.
How to help change
Start with your kitchen, the refrigerator, cabinets, and pantry. Give them a healthy food makeover. Get rid of anything that is unhealthy and then re-access what you have left. In your refrigerator, are they’re fruits and vegetables that are already cut up for easy access to just grab and eat? If you keep these foods easily accessible, you are more likely to grab them to eat them. When you must take the time to cut them up and wash them, you will go and grab something easier, like a Twinkie. Make it easier for yourself and everyone in your house.
Next, evaluate your pantry. Most of these foods are easily accessible and enable to make bad decisions and help us gain weight. For some it is not economically feasible to rid all canned foods. What you can do is read the labels and do some research. Is this food high in sugar or salt, high in fat? Is it high in calories but low in nutritional value? When you begin to see how much damage these processed foods could be doing to you, you can reevaluate if you even want to eat these. This can free up some of your budget to go towards healthier options such as nuts, beans, whole-grain crackers, fruits and vegetables.
Making any type of change is hard to do. It is our human nature to resist it and be skeptical of the unknown. Start simple and small, if you have to grab fast food for dinner make it grilled or baked instead of fried. Cut the vegetables and fruits up the day you bring them home from the store so you won’t forget and it will be done.
Take control of you and your family’s health to change the way you all look meal time. Do it together, this will increase the family bond and spark interest in other family members to maybe change their own habits. Take walks together, go to the park and have a picnic. All these are ways to help change family obesity, one step at a time.