“What would you like for breakfast?” “Nothing.” my eighteen-year-old replies in his groggy voice. (There’s still five days left of high school and he is more than ready to be done!)
This morning response to breakfast is not unusual with my son. I don’t think he has eaten breakfast one morning of his senior year and that concerns me; as it should. I know he is eating, but what and when is what worries me.
“According to a sobering new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, teens and kids in the United States are snacking more than ever and now get up to 27 percent of their daily calories from foods outside of regular meals.” (1)
This wouldn’t be a problem; in fact, it would be a healthy thing if they were grabbing a fruit or a fist full of veggies, but we all know that is not the case. Most teens admit it often has nothing to do with being hungry.
One thirteen-year-old admitted to me that she eats simply when she is bored; it’s something to do. Another teen confessed to eating when she is sad or feeling stressed out. These types of habits that begin in the high metabolism teen years don’t simply disappear once the teen hits the adult years. That’s when the fruit of the seeds of unhealthy eating really begin to show up. Millions of people are at risk for illnesses like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
Now, I am so aware that we cannot control what our kids eat when they are not at home, but with summer upon us, we can control what types of foods we have available to them while they are at home. How can we make a difference?
First, take an inventory of our pantries. What have we filled them with? Are there simply too many cookies and chips available? I know at times my pantry is a danger zone for any one trying to eat right. A couple of things my kids do love that is easy for them to grab are almonds and cheddar rice cakes (Aldi, thanks!)Let’s keep the high calorie and empty energy food on the grocery store shelves and off of our shelves this summer!
Second, post a lunch list. I am planning on scheduling lunch meals each day just like I do supper. I am hoping that with a little planning, I can keep at bay the days of throwing in a frozen pizza and too many days in a row of mac and cheese.
Three, begin cooking together. Summer is typically a less stressful time for families. In fact, when we go on vacation, I assign a meal to each member of the family (it’s vacation for mom, too, you know!) Before we leave, I help them plan a meal and get what they need. This get our kids in the kitchen with us. As you cook together, teach them what you know about eating right (and if you don’t know how to eat right, try learning together!).
We can make a difference in our country, one child at a time. (And as for my son, we’ll have to wait and see what the meals at App State do for him!)
What ideas can you share with us on helping our kids eat right? Let’s learn from each other!
1. teenVogue, June/July 2010, Snack Attack, pg. 110