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Healthy Living: If Not for Yourself, Do it for Our Children

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By Steve Lichtenwalter – Dallas South News Contributor

Let’s be honest, most of us are failures when it comes to our diets and our bad example harms our children. Sure, we’re totally blessed, we can eat basically whatever we want, we’re not starving to death like a lot of the world is; but we do a poor job at living up to the blessings that God has given us when it comes to diet.

French Fries

I personally have failed often in this area throughout my life as a parent and a teacher. I’ve been to fast food restaurants many times. I’ve bought candy to make the kids at school happy and bribe them to behave. They love it. And besides, I’ve never had a parent complain.

We have more excuses and reasons why we’re telling the truth than a used car salesman (I’m not saying they’re all bad). We say things like:

“I know a guy who ate at a burger joint everyday and lived to be 100 years old.”
…Maybe he would have lived to be 110.

“I have no time to eat right!”
…Do you have time to spend in the hospital?

“It’s too expensive to eat right”
…Have you ever been in the hospital and received a few of their bills? The truth is, it’s too expensive not to.

“It tastes lousy to eat right”
…But once you get off your addiction to junk food, real food actually is much tastier.

“The Bible says not to worry about what you eat or drink.”
…But it doesn’t say not to be concerned about it.

And on and on we go with our sophisticated reasons and excuses about why it’s all okay even though diabetes, heart disease, and health issues continue to rise.

As a nation, we are for the most part awful examples to our children. I have to admit, I’ve given in to temptation to feed my family on the dollar menu or under $10 many times. We eat all sorts of junk food and don’t even give a second thought as to how our children will probably grow up eating just like we do.
Another area our lack of conviction shows up is with the school lunches. If we were aware of the amount of high fructose corn syrup, sugars, white flour, and pesticides they contain we would be astounded. This is what many of our children eat five to seven times per week. The ones who don’t have school lunches might bring peanut butter and jelly (made with mostly sugar) on white bread and a bag of chips…not exactly healthy either.

We can make a huge difference in our lives and in the lives of our children by avoiding diabetes, pre-diabetes, heart problems, digestive problems and other related health issues. Did you know that 24 million Americans have diabetes and 57 million have pre-diabetes? Did you know that French Fries are one of the three most common “vegetables” consumed by infants 9-11 months of age? How about that for each can of diet soft drink consumed daily, a person’s risk of obesity goes up 41 percent? Did you know that the average American eats more than 30 teaspoons of sugar a day? That’s more than 114 pounds of sugar a year!

Perhaps by now you’re saying “Alright already! So what do you want me to do about it?” Let’s talk about some basic changes we can all make:

First, realize it can be done! Believe you can do it! It’s not beyond any of us; it just takes a lifestyle change.

Second, get educated. Find a few good books on the subject, talk to people who are knowledgeable, read some good articles and find areas of agreement.

But don’t be overly naive. Many of us believe whatever the food and drug administration tells us. Are you sure they’re out for our good? Are the companies that put the labels on our foods out for our good or do they care more about the bottom line?

Third, read the ingredients and learn what they are. Did you know there are over thirty names just for sugar on food labels! If you have no idea what it is, don’t buy it and don’t eat it. Jillian Michaels says in her book Master Your Metabolism, “If it didn’t have a mother and it didn’t grow in the ground, don’t eat it.” Actually, in the book of Genesis in the bible (chapter 1, verses 29-30), it says the same thing.

Fourth, begin to make small changes. Sure, generic white bread is cheaper, but when you eat it you constantly want more. The white flour sugar spikes makes you crave more and more of it. A piece of 100% whole grain bread may costs twice as much, but you’ll eat half as much, be healthier and feel much more fulfilled an hour later. Eat less high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated fats, artificial sweeteners, preservatives and colors, and other obviously bad chemicals (not foods). Begin to eat more foods that will be healthy for you and your children such as fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds whole grains, organic meats (or at least very lean) and eggs, organic diary, etc.

I must admit, it is challenging when so many products sold in the supermarket has high fructose corn syrup, sugar, pesticides, hydrogenated fats, artificial sweeteners, artificial preservatives and colors, MSG, etc. Maybe you can’t completely eliminate these but you can cut back significantly in a way that will make a difference for your whole family. I’m a teacher and my family and I eat mostly organic foods. It can be done!

None of us are perfect, but we can move forward towards a healthier diet and lifestyle. Remember, one of the greatest gifts you can give your child is good health! Then hopefully when they’re parents, they will give their children the same gift.

“Steve Lichtenwalter has been teaching for more than 20 years. He is currently a teacher in a Montessori school in the Dallas area.”

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