While this was something I personally never struggled with as a child, I did watch my two cousins struggle with it, as we grew up together. I remember hanging out with them every weekend as kids, playing together, watching movies together and of course sharing meals together. Truth be told when we shared meals, it actually always seemed like I was the one who ate far more than they did. So naturally I always wondered why I didn’t balloon up like my cousins.
It wasn’t until we hit our twenties when I started to learn what their REAL eating patterns were like. You see, on weekends my family indulged. We would have dim sum feasts during the day, pizzas at night, or try out new restaurants for dinner. But on the weekdays, we ate every meal at home. Breakfast was always eggs, toast, and milk. Lunch I had at school but dinner was always pretty light standard Chinese fare, consisting of a vegetable dish, a protein dish that was either stir fried or braised and some kind of soup along with a very small bowl of rice. We never had dessert after meals. And oddly enough, having been brought up with very little sweets in the house, made me sort of indifferent to it. We drank water, tea, or milk at home, nothing else.
I always assumed my cousins had the same regimen. After talking to them in their later years, I realized that the weekdays were no different than the weekends for them. They had many meals out, sometimes huge steak dinners, burgers, pizzas and after school snacks consisted of whatever they bought at the local store or whatever they could find at home, which was usually supersized packs of snacks from Costco (chips, candy bars, cookies, sodas). The problem here wasn’t that the parents were lenient towards them and allowed them to eat whatever they wanted. These were actually eating patterns that the parents had and thus, this set the standard in the household.
Parents have a huge responsibility in setting proper lifestyle standards at home, not only for their kids, but for themselves. If you live a healthy balanced lifestyle, it was naturally translate into the children’s lives. If you eat healthy balanced meals, then naturally your kids will adopt your ways, because it’s the only way they know. It’s a lot easier to start kids off on the right path, than to lead them into the wrong path and bring them back on track. Trying to take away all the junk food they are used to eating and saying it’s now all bad for you is way more challenging than just keeping it away from them in the first place.
As I’m now pregnant with my first child, I’m already starting to plan out how to start my baby on a balanced diet as soon as she begins solids. That means, introducing veggies, proteins, and little to no sugar to them as early as possible. And as they grow up, I want to continue to follow my traditional Chinese roots of having balanced meals with a focus on vegetable, protein and soup. I feel very fortunate to have experienced these home cooked meals and appreciate it even more now that I’m older. It’s way more meaningful than the pizza meals we had out or the unmemorable restaurants we had frequented. As parents we have a duty to lead a healthy life and learn to prepare meals at home so that we can pass these habits down to our kids and their future kids so that they won’t have to ever go down the difficult road of childhood obesity.
Children don’t know how to balance out their own diets and eat healthy. They need their parents to guide them and set the proper parameters. If the parents can do this as early as possible so that it becomes second nature, we can help decrease the likelihood of childhood obesity. It’s important that we do this, because once they fall onto the path towards obesity, it’s extremely difficult to get back on track. I know, I’ve seen it in my own family. I would hate to put my future children in that position.