By Lynda Aldon, Special to the Los Angeles Times
August 2, 2010
I have always loved helping people achieve their fitness goals, whatever they may be.
However, recently I have noticed that the small children of many of my clients are eating more sugar and fat-laden foods than ever before. As a result, these children have more health problems, which may include more cavities and a raised probability of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Many of these children are not even overweight yet! But they are starting a pattern of unhealthful eating that will only do them more harm as they age. They could possibly end up overweight or obese by the time they reach middle school.
I was raised by a European mother who sent me off to school with an apple in my lunch box. Raisins were included on occasion. Trips to McDonald's were far and few between, and even then I remember I ate one hamburger, a small bag of fries and a vanilla milkshake. (The portions, I admit, were a lot smaller in those days.)
But today, children have access to fast food on a regular basis because many moms are too poor, too busy or too darn lazy to prepare healthy meals for their family. Home cooking is something of the past. Frozen foods are a good option if they are healthy and low-fat. Unfortunately, these dinners taste like cardboard to a child whose taste buds are accustomed to chicken McNuggets and french fries.
Their school lunches aren't much better. Pre-adolescents become so accustomed to the fast-food favorites that they are labeled "difficult eaters." I know of a mom who tried to fool her child into eating "Tofu McNuggets." To me, they tasted pretty good — but not to her toddler.
I can't remember a single classmate developing Type 2 diabetes when I was a child. Childhood obesity was rare. We had an hour of exercise every day in school and were active after school (and after homework) on a regular basis. Television was a treat, not a habit. Fitness was not a goal; we stayed healthy and at a normal weight nonetheless.
I just returned home from an afternoon training session with two of my mom clients. One of them has insomnia thinking of her friend whose 8-year-old was recently diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. We discussed changing their main meals, one step at a time.
For breakfast, I suggested switching out sugary cereals for whole-grain cereals with their kids' favorite fruit on top.
For lunch, I suggested using wheat bread over white bread. The obvious choice is 100% whole-wheat or whole-grain bread, but … baby steps! Simple carbs need to be replaced with "complex" carbs, but one at a time or the children may revolt entirely. Tuna and chicken salads, I added, can easily be made with half mayo and half yogurt. These changes appealed to the moms — in theory, at least.
Finally, I suggested that they involve their children in helping cook meals in the evening. The more veggies they are exposed to at home, the more this will hopefully help influence their choices when they are at school or at a friend's. They can also make popsicles with an inexpensive popsicle maker, adding their favorite fruit.
To this day, I still opt for healthful foods because I ate them consistently as a child. I keep a "clean" eating regimen on most days. Lean protein and complex carbs (fruits and vegetables) are my staples. I avoid sugary or fatty desserts and splurge occasionally on squares of organic dark chocolate. Yum! I also drink plenty of water and avoid sodas and diet sodas all the time.
I only hope that these moms can start their kids off on healthy habits, as of now. My mom did with me, and I know it paid off.
Aldon lived extensively in Paris as a child and, later on, as a student. She has been a personal trainer in the greater Los Angeles area for more than 20 years. She was a fitness model before becoming a personal trainer. She has appeared in numerous fitness magazines, including Shape and on the cover of Muslce & Fitness. She works out every day — and loves it.
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