January 8, 2010

Whoa, Slow, and Go Foods and Gingerbread

I don't know about you, but I ate too much over the holidays. So many of the family gatherings and meetings with friends had something do to with food. I loved hanging out with family and friends, but all that goodness was associated with eating a little, or a lot, of something sweet or wonderful. So as the new year starts, I'm hitting the club, watching my food intake, reconnecting with my activity program and trying to shed a few pounds. Old story.

I'll confess that I intentionally worked hard to restrain myself over the holidays, and I did do better than in previous years. From my "hold back" perspective, I did have occasion to wonder what lessons we were unintentionally giving the kids about food during all those festivities. For example, our holiday began with what is becoming a tradition of building a gingerbread house with the little ones. It was literally and figuratively a sweet time with them, but it was so NOT about eating your vegetables. Good foods did show up to be sure, but it was amazing to me how much the holidays were about sweets. Apparently I'm not alone in my concern about the messages around food young people are getting.

Research done in 2006 by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, concluded that children’s exposure to television advertising for non-nutritious food products is a significant risk factor contributing to childhood obesity. While major food companies such as Kellogg, General Mills, Conagra, and PepsiCo banded together in 2007 and pledged to stop advertising unhealthy foods to children, a recent Children Now report says that, nearly three out of four (72.5%) of the foods advertised on television to children are for products in the poorest nutritional category. That's the category they call Whoa foods. Children Now says, Advertising for truly healthy foods, such as vegetables and fruits, known as “Go” products, is virtually invisible. Commercials for such foods account for only 1% of all food advertising to children.

It has been a constant theme of mine that adolescent males are constantly watching the men around them to craft their vision of manhood. I know that also works for a man's relationship to food. I think a good New Year's intention for me is to better manage my own consumption, and then to be especially vigilant about my food choices when young guys are around. I will also choose healthier locations for lunch when I meet with the guys I mentor. I'm even thinking that a cooking lesson for a group of young dudes could be a helpful and interesting activity.

While I'm sure not going to mess with holiday traditions, next year I think a new cooking adventure with the grand kids is in order. We'll prepare and eat something fun, festive, and nutritious . . . to balance out that gingerbread house.

What lessons are your food choices and behaviors 
teaching the young people you know?

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