If you love me, don’t feed me junk

This is the title of a children’s book written some years ago by Mrs. Gooch’s Health Food Stores and long before today’s epidemic of child/teen obesity.

The relevance of the title of this book hit hard recently as I waited in the line-up at a local market. A mom was stocking up on ‘goodies’ for her children for summer vacation. As the cash register sang its happy song, it was apparent to me that this mother understood very little about the effects of junk food and her growing children.

Most of us ate junk food when younger, and with the high metabolism found with youth, we burned it off quickly while playing ball in the street, shooting hoops at the local court, splashing in the sea with friends at Smith’s Cove and any other manner of physical activity. Usually, we ate good balanced meals and had treats on occasion.

Unfortunately for today’s generation, junk food has become the staple diet. Added to this is the decline in activity amongst youth. Many of us walked to school; most of today’s young people wouldn’t entertain the idea. So, what are parents to do?

Firstly, take nutrition seriously. The food we fuel our bodies with has a direct correlation to health, the onset of major disease, weight management, energy level, attention span and personal self-esteem.

Children who eat healthier perform better at school. Behaviour problems at home are also often linked to poor diet. Do your kids go off the wall at bedtime; are they eating junk in the evenings? The old adage ‘we are what we eat’ applies here.

Secondly, keep in mind that children learn from being taught, and if we teach them to eat healthy, it becomes a natural and easy choice for them to do so. It’s wonderful to hear a child say: ‘I don’t drink soda’.

Counting the dollar cost of healthy eating may at first seem high. To my eye, however, the $150 dollars this mother spent was money thrown away. There was little, if any, nutritional value in the foods purchased.

Your children need a chance to grow into thriving, active and healthy individuals.

Note these practical tips for parents who love their children and don’t want to feed them junk:

Prepare fun and healthy snacks for your children. Peanut Butter with apples, pears or crackers is popular. Granola bars, fruits, low-fat cheese and veggies are wonderful snacks. Eat healthy snacks yourself.

Bring back popcorn. It’s high in fiber, low in calories and a good replacement for high-fat salty snacks. Encourage and educate you children.

Eliminate sodas from your child’s diet. Choose natural fruit juices instead.

Sandy Gooch defines junk food as: ‘Any food that is essentially worthless, made without concern for what food can and should do. Junk food includes mass-produced concoctions of artificial chemicals and other drastically altered substances.

Junk food is designed to appeal to our less sophisticated tastes while having minimal – or even negative – nutritional effects. When a giant conglomerate programs it computers to produce 5,000,000 sugar-sponge snacks, load them into cellophane wrappers and ship them to supermarkets postdated two weeks – that I call JUNK!’