Kids should ask about food
Most of us have a love-hate relationship with our cell phones. Staying connected to work brings an intrusion when we're trying to relax. I've been trying to put mine away when we get home until after the kids are in bed, but it's hard. Phones make us more connected to people far away, but more disconnected from those by our sides. Instagram is hugely fun and creative, but generates a big gap between expectation and reality. That's probably a problem. And yet ….
The reality is also that as I write, I'm sitting on the sand at John Smith's Bay. After shopping for a client, I left my heels in the car and have settled on the sand in my work dress. Not the best beach outfit, but amazing to have an outdoor office. My cell means that I can work from anywhere. So, instead of frantically flying back to the office to knock this out before the school run, I can pause en route and take my time. It's hard to see it as a bad thing.
So, we're left with a combination of good and bad. A little like the food industry. Our food has never been so messed up (factory farming) or so amazing (raw chocolate tart anyone?). Our kids receive a million different messages about what's healthy and what's not — many of them conflicting.
Whether through parenting or as a role model, most of us get the opportunity to influence how kids view the world. It's a privilege and a responsibility, but it's tempting to think that you always have to deliver in terms of facts. Sometimes, it's more valuable to help kids learn how to think critically — to ask the questions that help them figure out the facts for themselves. And as I was talking to a group of parents last night, we started drawing up a list of questions kids should be asking. Here are four of the best:
1. Is it really food?
Having children look at an ingredient label to see how many of the words they recognise is interesting. As soon as they are able, see if they understand what the ingredients are. If there are things they don't understand or if they can spot food dye numbers, it's probably processed junk. In that case, it's not real food. And unless it's real food, it's not going to do you any favours.
2. Will it improve my health? (step away from a focus on weight!)
When we look at food labels, the first thing many of us look for is the calories. Teaching kids to default to calories ultimately teaches them that weight is the be all and end all. In reality, something low-calorie can be full of crap and just lead to an endless cycle of empty calories and sugar cravings. If they ask themselves if the ingredients will do their body good, that's all together a better question.
3. Is it worth it?
No matter how well you educate them, sometimes kids will still want junk food, simply because it tastes good. That can be frustrating, but is obviously completely normal. However, try and teach kids to stop, pause and ask themselves, “Is it really worth it?” or “Is it actually delicious?” Sometimes we end up eating things because we expect them to be amazing and yet they were really disappointing. Take a bite. If it's delicious, by all means carry on and enjoy every bite (we're talking occasional treats here!), but if it's not fantastic, then rethink it. Maybe it's just not worth it.
4. Is it kids' food or grown-up food?
I am not suggesting that kids only eat kids' food. In fact, the opposite. It's a good idea to show children how marketing companies often use fun characters, bright colours and collectable gifts to coerce kids into choosing their product. Kids' options are so often pure junk in disguise, so make them be little detectives and see if they can spot the tricks. Ideally, food would just be food — with no distinction.
•The advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns. Catherine Burns is the managing director of Natural Ltd and a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. Please note that she is not a registered dietitian. For details, please go to www.natural.bm or call 236-7511. Join Catherine on Facebook: www.facebook.com/nutri fitandnatural nutritionbermuda.