Teach Children to Read Food Labels
Childhood obesity is a growing problem in the U.S. More than one out of every three children is now overweight or obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. And that number is going up each year. Do you think this epidemic isn’t such a big deal? Do you think that it’s nothing to worry about because “all kids eat poorly” and they’ll just grow out of it?
Studies actually show that most of the eating habits we have as adults are developed during childhood. Think about those foods that you consider “comfort foods.” We bet that in most cases, you first started eating them when you were a child. Studies also show that 80 percent of the health issues we face as adults today are a result of poor lifestyle choices; only 20 percent are due to genetics. For kids, the childhood obesity trend is deadly serious. For the first time in history, today’s children are not expected to live as long as their parents!
Society likes to point fingers whenever there is a problem. We hear it all the time: It’s government’s responsibility to regulate unhealthy foods, or it’s the school’s job to teach our kids about nutrition. Well, as parents, it’s our job to oversee what our kids eat!
Parents who practice a healthy lifestyle are the best, positive influence on the lives of their children. It’s often said that “children are terrible listeners, but they are great imitators.” When parents have healthy eating habits, those habits are quickly adopted by their kids. And studies show that most of our adult eating habits are first developed in childhood.
One great place to start teaching your kids about healthy eating is at the supermarket. Teach them to read labels. This not only teaches them about healthy eating, it also helps them learn to read and improves their math skills too. Take your kids with you to the grocery store next time you go and point out these items found on the Nutrition Facts panel of almost every packaged food:
Serving Size: Packaged foods often contain more than one serving – this may be news to your kids! Learning this one aspect can lead to a lifetime of “portion control.” Many people think that a “standard” portion is an entire package.
Good Fat versus Bad Fat: Unsaturated fats can be beneficial, but should still be limited because of their high calorie count. Saturated fats (mostly from animal products and additives) should be limited because of their link to higher cholesterol levels and increased risk of heart disease. Trans fats (often listed as “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils) should be avoided altogether. These are artificial fats and pose a number of health risks.
Sugars: Simple sugars are a type of carbohydrate, and should be eaten in very small amounts because they contain a lot of calories and little nutrition. Sugar can come in many forms including high fructose corn syrup, which is in the news these days. It is important to know that all simple sugars are processed the same by the body – none is substantially better than another.
Nutrients: This is a pure numbers game. You should teach kids to look for lots of protein and vitamins on food labels.
Understanding the information found on most common food products is a great place to start teaching kids about healthy eating.