Nutrition Education Starts Early
I don’t remember exactly how I got interested in health and nutrition as a kid. I don’t recall specific conversations with my family about eating right, but I feel like we generally had good food choices available. Definite gratitude to my parents for that. I didn’t know that there was another way of eating so I didn’t form the bad habits that are so prevalent today with a great majority of kids today.
Sure there were cookies, chips, blue box mac & cheese, and happy meals. My family did eat out on occasion, though no where near the extent that families eat out today. Before I grew to love the full range of Tex-Mex cuisine, the only meals I wanted at our beloved Los Tios, much to my parent’s displeasure, were the “Cheese Dome” or a bowl of queso dip with tortilla chips. See the pattern? I was also the “double rice/no beans” kid. Now, it’s the other way around. My mom may not have been Julia Child, but she did cook for our family of four on a regular basis. There was no short-order cooking either so we had to eat what our parents ate no matter how long we had to sit at the table. On the night of the icky steamed brussels sprouts, my sister got busted for feeding them to the dog while I gagged them down. That story lives on to this day and I have since grown to love brussels sprouts. Sautéed or roasted, please.
There is one distinct memory when I realized that teaching people what and how to eat could be an actual occupation. My bestest childhood friend at the time, Lauren (whose nickname was Booger for reasons I don’t recall), had a mother who was a dietitian. One night after a family dinner at Booger’s house, her mom treated us to some Hershey’s Kisses for dessert. Of course, the typical kid wants to gorge on as many shiny-wrapped bits of chocolate-y goodness as possible. We weren’t allowed to do that though. I remember we were each given 1 chocolate kiss. After enjoying that sweet, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth morsel, Lauren’s mom asked us if we felt enough satisfaction that we didn’t have the urge for another kiss. She wanted to teach us a lesson to choose fulfillment over lack, contentment over greed. While our 7-year old minds understood the intent of her lesson, we still wanted “just one more” of that sweet treat pretty please. Years later when I was off to college pursuing a degree in nutrition to proceed my aspirations for culinary school, I remembered Booger’s mom and that shiny nugget of wisdom she implanted.
As I think back on that lesson from nearly 30 years ago, I am grateful that the adults in my life cared to (and had the means for) instilling healthy habits during our young impressionable years. Not all children are as fortunate. Even if today’s parents have the same financial opportunity to do so, they may not always know how to or even prioritize the importance of healthy eating. Today’s epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and hyperactivity in kids can only be changed with the right nutrition lessons at the right time. Fortunately there are plenty of resources available and professionals who can support a positive lifestyle in your household. Your kids health is one of the best things you can give them.