Your Children, Their Future: Why Healthy Habits Matter

by Samantha Maplethorpe, MD, MPH

In today’s busy families, ensuring a healthy nutritious lifestyle is harder than ever.

Despite increased awareness, we continue to see the rates of childhood obesity climb. Recent studies report we still haven’t allocated enough resources to tackle this tough issue.

Children learn what they live and good nutrition starts at home. With more adults eating on the run and the disappearance of the family dinner hour, the odds are stacked against our children learning to eat right and enjoy food as fuel.

Media and marketing machines continue to market to children who beg for a treat at each stop while running errands. Stressed out parents find it easy to reward good behavior with tasty treats.

Do you know what your children should be eating? Based on their age and lifestyle, do you have an idea of how many calories their bodies need, and what portion size is appropriate for each of your children? Do they get enough variety in their diet from each of the necessary food groups?

Some children today are both overfed and undernourished due to the low nutrient value of the foods they consume too much of.

As parents we must try to teach our children how to balance all of life’s indulgences with day to day habits that keep us healthy.

Developing healthy food attitudes in young people is tricky. Food has important social and cultural roles in our lives as a society. Celebrations and gatherings almost always involve food. So it makes sense that holidays like Halloween have evolved to include food treats. But sometimes it's hard to find the right balance between "treats" and overindulgence.

Today’s crazy busy lifestyle has a lot to do with where parents are at as well. There are social pressures on parents today that I believe rival any other time in recent history. Technology has put us into constant contact with information about imminent danger to our children that we were unaware of as little as 40 years ago.

Parents today are bombarded with messages about what they should be doing right and what they are probably doing wrong. Food is only one of these topics.

Don’t get me wrong. As a parent, I follow all the safety advice, of course, and I’m glad that we have products that have been safety-tested and that we live in communities where children remind each other about helmets and seat belts. However, the sheer amount of information that parents need to balance today is staggering.

So between piano lessons and soccer practice, tutoring and advanced test prep, good nutrition lessons need to be somehow addressed. To do it, we have to resist the messages our children parrot to us about the foods they want to eat, or how their lunch measures up to their friends across the lunchroom table. We have to somehow provide our children with the nutrition they need to fend off dental cavities, childhood diabetes, relative malnutrition, food allergy reactions and the like.

Fitness has three important components: good nutrition, healthy movement and emotional well being. While as parents it is our job to be good role models, we also have the responsibility to choose what is provided to our children. Green Halloween is a wonderful opportunity to begin to teach a better balance between indulgence and moderation, while fostering a positive attitude toward food as both socially important and necessary for providing the energy we need. We can weave in a responsibility toward our environment with a message about fitness and a sense of empowerment in designing our traditions to fit with our long term goals, instead of setting our children up to work within a “I’ll be better tomorrow” framework. Seize the day, enjoy your children and celebrate Green Halloween!

Samantha Maplethorpe, MD, MPH

Lakeside Family Physicians, PLLC

3707 Providence Point Drive SE, Suite G

Issaquah, WA 98029

425-369-1342 clinic messages and appointments

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