Would you let your child smoke cigarettes if that’s what they wanted to do? What about knocking back a shot of whisky?
Of course you wouldn’t. The risks attached to both drinking and smoking are too well known, and as a responsible parent you make the right health decisions for your kids, whether they like them or not.
So why do we allow our kids to eat bad food whenever they’d like? And to sit around playing computer games or watching TV when they could be getting some exercise?
It’s up to us to make sure our kids are as healthy and happy as they can be. And that starts and ends at home.
There’s two reasons, I reckon. The first is that it’s simply easier to give in to our kids demands rather than fight to force-feed them healthier options. We’re all busy, we’re all tired, and so the easiest option is the one we take. And trust me, I get it. There’s been plenty of times I’ve resorted to a chocolate bribe to get my two-year-old daughter to do something she doesn’t want to do.
And the second is that, for some reason, junk food just isn’t considered as damaging to our kids’ health as those other, better-known poisons.
But how wrong are we?
An international study has just found that overweight boys are twice as likely to develop bowel cancer — the second most common cancer in Australian men — when they get older than kids that are a healthy weight.
Think about that for second, by feeding our children rubbish and not introducing regular exercise into their routines, we are doubling their chances of contracting a potentially lethal disease when they’re older.
And the thing with overweight kids — and studies have found as many as 30,000 Aussie children may be obese — is that we all look at them as some kind of mystery, like we just can’t understand how they got that way. But the answer is simple; they eat too much junk food, and too much sugar in particular, and they don’t exercise enough.
And let’s not kid ourselves, it’s entirely our fault.
We’re the ones who do the shopping. We’re the ones who pull into the drive-thru when we’re too tired to cook. And we’re the ones who hand over iPads and TV remotes when we’re looking for some peace and quiet. Don’t believe me? Ask your children to name 10 common fruits and vegetables. Now ask them to name their favourite Macca’s menu items.
The good news is that it’s never too late to make a change. The same study, which tracked the health of more than 60,000 Danish school boys over 25 years, found that overweight boys who returned to a healthy weight by the time they reached young adulthood had reduced their risk of bowel cancer to the same level as boys who had never been overweight.
So it’s up to us to make sure our kids are as healthy and happy as they can be. And that starts and ends at home, so here are three simple ways to make a difference today.
Ditch the ‘healthy’ snacks: Fruit juice, muesli bars, yoghurts, diet drinks — most are just spoonfuls of sugar in disguise. If you don’t recognise the ingredient list on the side of the package, it’s a sure bet there’s plenty of hidden nasties in there. Instead choose genuinely healthy options like cut fruit and vegetables for a nutritious snack.
Just get moving.
If you refuse to get off the couch, how can you expect your children to? It’s up to you to introduce exercise into your children’s daily routine. And it’s easy to make it fun. Play with the dog, hit the playground or go for a bush walk together. You’ll be squeezing in exercise without your children even knowing it.
Cook up a storm.
Teaching your children about food is something they’ll remember for life. And healthy dinners don’t have to be complicated or boring, so grab a pan or your BBQ tongs an cook up a healthy storm with your kids.