It’s Crunch Time.
Let’s start a Food Revolution.
There’s no soft way to convey, we are creating history that will change the direction of future generations, but not necessarily in a good way.
Food Revolution Day is May 15, 2015
Sign the Petition Here.
It’s time to shake the apple tree.
Today, about one in three American kids and teens is overweight or obese. With good reason, childhood obesity is now the No. 1 health concern among parents in the United States, topping drug abuse and smoking. But what’s even more startling is that, because of the increasing rates of obesity, unhealthy eating habits and physical inactivity, we may see the first generation that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
Why do we have a curable epidemic on our hands? It is, in some ways, a socio-economic challenge.
Among American children ages 2–19, the following percentages of children are obese:
- For non-Hispanic whites, 17.5 percent of males and 14.7 percent of females
- For non-Hispanic blacks, 22.6 percent of males and 24.8 percent of females.
- For Mexican Americans, 28.9 percent of males and 18.6 percent of females.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. According to the CDC, 40.2% of Mexican origin men over 20 are obese, and women over 20 are 45.2% obese. For Non-Hispanic or African American men, it’s 37.9% and for Non-Hispanic or African American women over 20, it’s 57.6%. More than half of women, who are making over 70% of the shopping decisions for the family.
Obesity is not just a health issue that can lead to lifelong afflictions – or in many cases, a shorter life. Chronic diseases associated with obesity include diabetes, hypertension, stroke, elevated blood cholesterol and a lifetime of prescription drugs. Obese children are also affected by low self-esteem, negative body image and depression. They are under the microscope of peer pressure and feeling bad about their weight is not a weight to put on their shoulders.
There’s no room left for dessert as a reward and vilifying veggies. We have to embrace the ideal that teaching our children to be a part of the process will help them become successful eaters with a diverse palate that sets them up for a lifetime of success.
How do we change the course of this out-of-control train? We have to bring families back to the table and teach them how to eat better. Ultimately, how can we expect to know what to do if we’ve never been taught? By doing this, we can be the change makers bringing on a shift, a new season in the world of child nourishment that offers a promise to future generations.
I am so thankful I grew up in a Middle Eastern household where mealtime was so meaningful. We would help our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends – the neighbors and anyone else who decided to show up for a meal, and prepare the food together. We would gather around a large table full of small plates, passing and sharing the fresh food we had created, gathered from the produce seller, the meat vendor, the dairy guy, the fishmonger, the spice market and all of the vendors and purveyors we shopped from. We took pride in what we had procured and it was the food, the smells and the stories that would emerge from the table that kept us all enchanted. Fresh, clean, beautiful food made with care – lots for fresh veggies and fruit, meat in small amounts, fresh bread warm from the neighborhood bakery oven, beans, farmer’s cheese, olives and other soul-warming foods. We drank water at the table, with a squeeze of lime. After dinner, we would cleanse our palates with a piece of fresh seasonal fruit with a cup of mint tea. We only had ‘dessert’ – in the form of cakes or cookies – at special occasions, like weddings or birthdays. No fluorescent, processed, packaged, artificially flavored, artificially colored, artificially sweetened, artificially preserved foods. No sugary soda or sports drinks.
Just clean, fresh food. Not diet, low fat, carb-free food. Just real, whole food.
After meals, we would take walks to visit other relatives, go for a stroll by the Mediterranean Sea, or head to the park for some soccer. It wasn’t about going to a gym and wearing spandex. It was about social activity, playtime, interacting with others and being part of a bigger unit.
So let’s start by fixing meals.
First, we have to make sound nutrition relevant, and a priority. It can no longer be an ‘optional’ course in school, it needs to become mandatory, and carried out throughout the education experience. Just as food and water is critical for survival, so is the knowledge and understanding of how to enjoy it in the right amount. As a member of the California School Nutrition Association, I know there are school lunch standards, but how about the other school activities? No more cookie dough fundraisers. No more rewarding kids with candy at school for good effort. No more after-school programs offering empty calories.
Second, we need to become better teachers and role models. Make veggies the hero of the plate, stop ‘dissing on them. Get kids involved in the process and help them own it – and throw some kale in there while you’re at it. They are 80% more likely to try something they have a hand in. Make fresh produce a priority and limit the sugar. If our refrigerators are filled with junk, or worse, diet soda and ketchup, what are we teaching? Life on a perpetual diet will make yoyo’s out of all of us.
Let’s also make activity a ritual, a habit. Put down the technology DOWN and put those sneakers ON. Play with your kids, grab a basketball, hop on a bike, take the soccer ball to the field, go for a walk, play hopscotch, jump rope. Last week I rode scooters and played on the ‘big toy’ at the playground with my son. He laughed and loved it, and so did I. I felt closer to him than ever.
Perhaps a by-product of fixing mealtime is that we can actually help fix families, too. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate cherry on top?
Will you join me and host a Crunch Time event at your school?
From setting a world record for the loudest healthy crunch to fun foodie demos to nutrition entertainment, let’s make change happen together. For more information on all the ways you can lead your community and carry Food Revolution Day out in your school, please contact me at Mareya@eatcleaner.com.
For more information, clean eating tips & tools, recipes and more from Chef Mareya, The Fit Foodie, visit www.eatcleaner.com or text EATCLEANER to 22828 to Join The Cleaner Plate Club!
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