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Our Love-Hate Relationship with Food

June 9, 2015

By Amelia Orozco

Our Love-Hate Relationship with Food | As the parent and your child’s first teacher, you have the power to set the tone when it comes to how you approach food and what your family eats. | A family of four sit at the dinner table, full of salad, roasted chicken, water, and tomatoes.

We can foster love or harbor hatred in a relationship. When we are hurt, we can choose to just walk away. Why then is it so difficult to turn our back on that slice of cake? Even when we know that eating unhealthy foods is harmful, we may fall into temptation for a number of reasons. Some of them are time-related. You may be running around in the morning and it is easier to pop a couple of waffles in the toaster than to make oatmeal. In the evening after a hectic day, you may opt for the microwave chicken nuggets for the kids instead of baked chicken.

Although these are quick fixes to the everyday problem of time management, they can easily become a way of life and a way of coping with stress. And if you’re modeling that behavior with your kids, they will likely do the same as they get older.

The good news is that just as bad habits are easily made, so are healthy ones. As the parent and your child’s first teacher, you have the power to set the tone when it comes to how you approach food and what your family eats. Expect to work hard at replacing the old with the new. Even if it seems like a struggle, it’s important to persevere. In time, you will be happy with the results, and much healthier, too! Here are some obstacles you may face, and some suggestions to get around them.

On the Run
Days, weeks, even months can seem to go by in a blur with the frenzy of activities that both parents and children are involved in. Your son or daughter is in an extra-curricular activity that requires him or her to go there right after school. You have meetings or other get-togethers after work. For both parents and kids, it is important to plan ahead and avoid the pitfalls of eating fast food because it is convenient or on the way to your destination.

Plan ahead and pack healthy snacks such as baby carrots, a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread, and a banana. Also, make sure each member of the family has a water bottle they can refill throughout the day and take with them everywhere they go.

Special Events
Whether it's a wedding, a funeral, or a family reunion, the central focus is always the food. So how do we get around the obstacles “out there” when we find ourselves in those situations? If any of these events are potlucks, you are in luck. Bring a dish that is healthy and fun such as a fruit salad in a carved out watermelon or chicken kabobs with colorful veggies. Even if it is not a potluck, you can still eat healthy from what may be offered. Just make sure your plate is full of more leafy greens, crunchy veggies, and lean chicken or fish instead of fried, breaded, or processed foods such as potato chips or pizza.

Always opt for water instead of a soft drink. In fact, many times our body may “act” like it’s hungry when, in fact, it may only be asking for water. According to registered dietitian Sioned Quirke, "the same part of your brain is responsible for interpreting hunger and thirst signals, which can result in mixed signals.

At Home
Finally, at home base, it can be much easier to control what ends up on the table and on our plates. It begins at the grocery store when we choose foods from the outer walls of the store first (most fatty and processed foods can be found in the middle aisles). Always take a list of what you need, basing it on the meals you plan to make for the week, including snacks.

Choose fresh fruits and vegetables with plenty of naturally wrapped snacks such as oranges, bananas, and pears. Pick the leanest meats, avoiding sausages and hot dogs if at all possible. These can be for a special occasion, but as your habits change so will your cravings, so don’t be afraid to excluded these items from the table. Challenge your family to try new flavors and textures. You may be surprised at their positive reaction.

We strive for healthy relationships with our children, with our significant other, and with people at work. Rarely do we pay attention to our commitment to our bodies and the food we consume.

Per the Centers of Disease Control, “more than one-third of U.S. adults (34.9 percent) and approximately 17 percent (or 12.7 million) of children and adolescents aged two to 19 years have obesity.”

With these statistics on obesity, we must make these changes with a sense of urgency in order to live happier and longer lives. In addition, a good attitude about exercise and physical activity in general (yes, even housekeeping) can make all the difference in how easy the transition will be for you and your family.

Learn more about modeling positive behavior for your child in our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books, now available on Amazon

Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago and Extra Newspaper. A mother of three, Amelia also maintains an active role in her community and church by working with youth and promoting education and diversity through her writing and volunteer efforts.

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