I have a confession to make. If you were to come to my house and look through the fridge and cupboards, you’ll find tons of horrible junk food. From cereal boxes for breakfast to ice cream for dessert, my cupboards are filled with junk food. And, with my wife now eating healthy along with me, you know who eats all the junk food now? My kids. And I am just not sure what to do.
Like most, I grew up on junk. I was a child of the 1970’s, which happened to coincide with the ‘Health Club’ boom and the USDA’s Food Pyramid and switch to recommending a diet consisting of mostly carbohydrates. Incidentally, that was also the start of “the obesity epidemic”! What a surprise! I ate breakfast cereals growing. I was Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs just like every other kid. Loved the Trix, too. And man did I love those instant oatmeal packets – I used to have two of the Maple and Brown Sugar packets each morning. Nutrition at its finest! At school, I ate the junk lunches they pimped to us kids. Pizza, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, processed ‘chicken’ fingers, etc.
For snacks, it was the usual – chips, Goldfish, pretzels (the low-fat, healthy snack!), fat-free yogurt, Cheezits, Doritos, etc. And don’t forget the Philly Soft Pretzels that I used to, at 5am, partner up with a friend and go to the local pretzel factory and buy a box full and resell on the street to make a few bucks.
In the words of Ben from this week’s episode of HBO’s “How to Make it in America” – “Can’t knock the hustle.”
Although my kids are fortunate enough not to have to hustle on the streets to make a buck, they eat the same junk I did as a kid. Except it’s in more abundance and they have a steady supplier – me and my wife.
My kids are in fine physical shape on the outside (i.e., they’re not too skinny and not too fat). My daughter is actually an excellent eater for a 9 year old – she actually likes meats and vegetables. But, like most kids these days, good ole’ Ronald McDonald and his marketing machine has worked its wonders on her. But not nearly as adeptly as on my 8 year old son, who would eat at McDonald’s every meal if we let him.
I eventually want to get them eating better at home. For breakfast they’re eating some bacon with me, which is a start. But when you add the ‘Healthy Whole Grains’ (i.e., junk) to the equation it’s not doing much good. I’m afraid I learned proper nutrition too late in life, and too late to instill it in my kids. But what really has me ticked has been the school cafeteria. That crap they make at 99.9% of the school cafeterias is just horrific. And my kids’ school goes one step further – they actually give these debit-card like things and allow 1st graders to spend what they like for lunch! That means ice cream and candies in addition to the junk they serve (or, more aptly, sell). On any given day it’s either chicken fingers, pizza, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, etc. Yeah, they’ll slip a salad out here or there. But they know damn well that the kids won’t bite on that.
I still have some weight to lose. So I feel like my words won’t have as much ‘weight’ (no pun intended) right now, until I slim down further. I hate a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ guy as much as the rest. So I figured, once I do slim down, I could be that pain in the ass dad that is on the school district superintendent’s back constantly about why she’s pushing all of this horrible food to our kids, all in order to make a buck, selling them ice cream and pizza every day. But then again, what will the response be, even if I was successful? It would be a no-win situation: they would substitute processed ‘chicken’ fingers with more ‘healthy whole grains’. It’s a no-win situation. My kids are young enough that we need to just pack their lunches. I see no alternative. But soon enough they’ll be old enough where they’ll have to make their own choices. And I know when I was 11 or 12 years old and I had an option between pizza and healthy food, guess which one I was picking?
How do you help your kids when it comes to nutrition?