By Nancy Mehagian, Health Care Practitioner and Author of “The Supernatural Kids Cookbook”
When it comes to food quality we vote with our forks every day. Even though statistics show there is a rise in childhood obesity and diabetes due to the abundance of processed foods with high sugar, fat, and sodium contents as well as huge portion sizes, I remain an optimist.
Things have changed a great deal since I wrote my first natural foods cookbook for children in 1977.
Organic, natural foods were looked on as the food of the flower children. I couldn’t even write on the book cover that the recipes were all vegetarian without being mocked.
Now, farmers’ markets are popping up everywhere. Some schools have started gardens and have classes in the culinary arts. My local supermarket has an ever-expanding section of organic produce while soy, rice, almond, and even coconut milks are now in the dairy case.
Oprah and Dr. Oz have jumped on the “let’s get healthy bandwagon” while books, documentaries, and Jamie Oliver are exposing the unappetizing facts about the ways some of our food is being produced.
The cultural diversity found in most cities has been another contributing factor to an awareness of eating food that will actually sustain us. So many traditional foods, the ones that are passed down through the generations, have gone mainstream and we’ve discovered that not only do we love fish tacos, couscous, hummus, and Pad Thai noodles, but that these dishes contain healthful, natural ingredients.
I have always been a believer that food is our best medicine, and so the quality of what we are putting into our bodies of the utmost importance, especially when it comes to our growing children. In a sense, our future depends on the health of our children. And we owe them that.
There are several things you can do to vote with your forks every day and keep things moving in the right direction:
- Get your children off to a healthy start by exposing them to natural foods early in life.
- Request that your local markets carry more organic food items and locally grown produce.
- Learn to read labels and avoid those products that contain additives or were grown outside the country.
- When you go out to eat, support the restaurants that are making an effort to serve healthier, more natural cuisine or expose your children to different ethnic cuisines to expand their awareness of new foods.
- Educate your children by taking them to a local farmers’ market so that they may sample the produce and decide what they like. If you don’t have a farmers’ market local farmers will sometimes allow people to come and pick their own produce, which makes for a great family outing.
- Start a backyard garden to enable children to make the connection between how food is grown and how it comes to the table. Kids who might not like vegetables change their minds when they eat something they grew themselves. Backyard gardens are a great source of fun and family togetherness. If you don’t have a backyard, you can use containers on a patio or windowsill. It’s still a thrill.
- Studies now show that family dinners contribute to less-troubled teens. Get the entire family involved in shopping and meal preparation, then enjoy the time spent together eating food prepared with love.
- Take cooking classes and use a variety of health-minded cookbooks to create new meals and keep life interesting.
- Support organizations that monitor health and food safety.
- Keep it simple and take the time to enjoy what you’re eating.