Parents are hard-wired to protect their kids from physical harm. But are you protecting yours from disease? Feed your kids healthy foods now and you will reduce their risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and cancer later in life. In the meantime, they'll also likely experience fewer allergies, less asthma, and quite possibly less ADHD.
Conveniently, the same diet is good for you and your kids. Just being a vegetarian isn't good enough, though; a veggie hot dog on a white bun loaded with mayonnaise, ketchup, and pickle relish is not a high-nutrient food and will not significantly reduce disease risk. You must consume foods that are naturally high in nutrients: whole, unrefined vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds. If you eat animal products, refined foods, or sweets — make those the rare exception rather than the rule.
Build their diet around foods that are as close to their most natural state as possible — steamed broccoli instead of broccoli cheddar soup, whole olives rather than olive oil. Think of it as eating low on the food chain — the greens themselves rather than the cow that ate them or the cheese made from the milk that came from the cow... you get the idea.
Teach your kids why healthy eating is important. Start a discussion over the dinner table about why what you're eating is good for you. Tell them you eat healthy because you love them and care about their future; let kids give feedback and share how they feel about it too.
Get creative at incorporating vegetables into your meals. Blend frozen fruit with a little soymilk or orange juice and throw in a handful of fresh spinach or kale. Serve it in an opaque, covered cup with a colored straw and your kids will never know they're eating vegetables. Chop kale, collards, or spinach greens and add them to pasta sauce. Stuff a pita pocket with salad or shredded vegetables. Bake shredded zucchini, carrots, or beets into cookies and cakes. Do your kids want pizza? Rather than ordering out, use whole wheat pita bread to make personal veggie pizzas. Have a contest to see who can use the least amount of cheese, or leave it off completely and pile on the veggies.
Does preparing a healthy meal take more time than the drive-thru? Absolutely. But that time is an investment in the future. And if we believe our bodies are God's temples, that time can become a sacred ritual of worship.
Setting an example also goes for exercise. If kids see their parents in a regular exercise program, an active lifestyle becomes their norm. Make sure kids have the equipment they need — bicycles, helmets, inline skates, pads — to safely engage in activities they enjoy. Choose age-appropriate activities that fit your child's personality: Little League for the athlete, biking around the block for the casual athlete, playing at the park for the non-athlete.
With childhood obesity and early type 2 diabetes on the rise, it's increasingly important to watch what kids are eating and make sure they're getting enough exercise. Our future is shaped by our childhood. If you've tried to change your lifestyle, you can appreciate how challenging it can be. Give your kids the advantage of a healthy diet and an active life-style now and disease proof them for life!
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