What Parents Should Know About Fast Food

There are many facts that every parent should know about fast food. Here are some for starters:

1. Fast foods are often heavy in calories

An adult would have to walk for seven hours straight to burn off a Super Sized Coke, French Fries and a Big Mac. Younger kids with smaller bodies are consuming an even greater proportion of unnecessary calories unless they are eating child-sized meals. But even then, these foods have way too many calories. In fact, this is why fast food is a major contributor to the obesity epidemic. Left unabated, obesity will soon surpass smoking as the leading cause of preventable deaths in America. Moreover, even if one doesn’t die from obesity but simply lives with it, quality of life is often impaired. Obesity has been linked to: hypertension, coronary heart disease, adult onset diabetes, stroke, gall bladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, endometrial, breast, prostate and colon cancers, dyslipidemia, steatohepatitis, insulin resistance, breathlessness, asthma, among other serious diseases.

3. Fast foods are high in preservatives and low on nutritional value

4. Most nutritionists recommend not eating fast food more than once a month

5. Fast food is possibly linked to cases of increased inattention and hyperactivity in children

Even with the release of the educational film “Super Size M” in 2004, there has been no real decline in fast food sales in America. On the contrary: fast food consumption is on the increase! And yet, many parents still wish they could feed their kids three nutritious meals a day.

If you are one of these parents, here are a few tips on how to inspire your kids to avoid fast food:

Provide the Necessary Information
Explain why fast food is harmful. Fortunately, there are now some really excellent picture books that can help you get your point across to both young children and teens. The series entitled “Eat This, Not That” provides a wealth of information in a fun format that appeals to kids of all ages. Although one of the books is specifically addressed to young people (“Eat This, Not That, for Kids”), the other books are also highly accessible. Parents can read and discuss the material at the dinner table and/or just leave the book(s) lying around the house. “Dr. Shapiro’s Picture Perfect Weight Loss” is another wonderful educational aid, interesting to the whole family.

Condition Them to Like Healthy Foods
Cook healthy delicious food at home. The trick here is to get your child’s palette used to the taste of healthy food and to come to prefer it over the the taste of commercially prepared fast foods. If your kids are used to the fast food taste already, then help them make a gradual transition to a healthier diet. At first, offer foods that are similar to fast food – for instance, introduce fruit shakes in place of ice teas, sausages instead of hot dogs, pesto instead of spaghetti, tacos instead of chips. Gradual transitions can help kids adjust to a new diet more easily.

Avoid stuffing food in the refrigerator for your kids to heat via microwave whenever they are hungry. Microwaved food tastes a bit too much like fast food. Instead, as often as possible, sit down together and eat freshly prepared meals. Even the act of sitting down together is an important step in developing a healthy food consciousness, regardless of what is being served.

Introduce Your Kids to the World of Good Food
Consider introducing “fine cuisine” into your family culture. Get cookbooks out of the library and experiment with interesting, even exotic dishes. Bake up a storm. Teach the kids how to do the same, approaching them in ways appropriate for their age. When people taste really good food, they often become “food snobs” – preferring quality food to “fast food” any day. All the lectures about health and well-being can’t compete with the impact of the taste of really delicious food!

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