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Nutritional Wealth: Parenting 101: Remember to look both ways
Mike Thompson mug
Mike Thompson

Did your mom hold your hand and teach you to look both ways before you stepped into the street? It’s Parenting 101, teach your kids about dangers and protect them throughout their life.

Eating your favorite food is one of life’s great pleasures. I love watermelon, a luscious symbol of American summer beloved by young and old. Like most colored fruits and vegetables its packed with micronutrients often referred to as vitamins and minerals. It contains no fat and is extremely good for you to eat. That leads me to this.

I’m in the grocery store fast-walking down the soda aisle to reach the produce section and a bright fluorescent-like colored bottle grabbed me: MAJOR MELON, a soda drink adorned with fun cartoon-type characters to obviously attract kids and kids-at-heart.

Brilliant marketing! Can this be good for you?

I stopped short of throwing it in my cart and looked at the nutrition label (like crossing the street). I lost my breath and was shocked and brought down to earth by what I read. This bottle offers 62 grams of sugar in one little serving. 2 ½ days worth of sugar (American Heart Association and World Health Organization). What is the food company thinking with this cartoon watermelon, I wondered?

Like a cold slap in the face, I realized the worst. Food companies, in general don’t care about your health.

Here they twisted and perverted one of nature’s healthy beauties to promote one of the worst drinks in the world (Google “Mountain Dew Mouth’ Is Destroying Appalachia’s Teeth”) to kids!

Parents: Fundamental skills in this century include taking control, identifying, and ignoring magnetically seductive advertising which puts your family at risk. Proactively teaching your children about the dangers lurking in the nutrition street is critical. But beware, food companies play in the same stadium and they ruthlessly dominate the game of gaining your kid’s attention by spending billions. Look around at a ballgame, theme park, carnival or fast-food hangouts. See how they promote unhealthy foods with bright colors, cartoony and sexy slogans and pictures that make you drool. We’re in a jammed freeway of dangerous food products readily available and screaming at us like the Melon Major.

Childhood obesity is now a full-blown pandemic (global spread of an epidemic) and it’s fueled by sugar. The Center for Disease Control warns obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, with at least 2.8 million people dying each year as a result of being overweight or obese.

• Once associated with high-income countries, obesity is now also prevalent in low-and middle-income countries since they, too, have adopted the western fast-food soda-liquified diet.

• Already 1 of 3 children in the US are obese. From 1999 –2000 through 2017 –2018, US obesity prevalence increased from 30.5% to 42.4%.

During the same time, the prevalence of severe obesity increased from 4.7% to 9.2%.

• Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. These are among the leading causes of preventable, premature death.

In the last two weeks, two different doctor friends told me most of the children they see professionally are overweight and obese. Dr. Megan Rosenquist says she starts out too many conversations with parents saying, “you’re not going to like this” to explain how they must change their fast food and sugary drink habits because it’s making their kids (and themselves) fat and sick. It’s akin to looking both ways before crossing the street. My friend Bryan told me about his cousin Kenny, who adored and chowed down on hot dogs 2-3 times a day, every day. Kenny died of cancer in his mid-20s likely due to his diet. It’s getting serious, folks, but informed parenting can keep your families safe.

Dr. John Seffrin, then Chief Executive of the American Cancer Society, lamented out loud that a billion deaths could be avoided “ if we could prevent the terroristic tactics of the tobacco industry in marketing its products to children.” How many hampered and shortened lives are lived from food companies and their unrelenting advertising attacks on kids?

To Develop healthy eating habits

• Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits, and wholegrain products.

• Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils, and beans for protein.

• Encourage your family to drink lots of water.

• Limit sugary drinks.

• Limit consumption of sugar and saturated fat.

• Teach your kids to read food labels. Point out the dangers of added sugar. Aim for 0 added sugar and way less than 10g per serving. Learn about macronutrients and teach your kids about a healthy protein/fat/ carbohydrate balance. To Upgrade your Snack Culture Reducing availability of high-fat and high-sugar or salty snacks helps your children develop healthy eating habits. Only allow your children to eat these foods rarely, so they truly will be treats! Examples of easy-to-prepare, low-fat and low-sugar snacks with 100 calories or less:

• 1 cup carrots, broccoli, or bell peppers with 2 tablespoons hummus.

• A medium apple or banana.

• 1 cup blueberries or grapes.

• One-fourth cup of tuna wrapped in a lettuce leaf.

Help kids be active. You be the role model.

Remember children imitate adults. Add healthy food and physical activity to your own routine and your kids will eventually follow. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree (unabashed health food reference).

Kids can’t choose their diets, grown-ups do. Adults lead the way and direct where kids go and how they think and act. If a food is advertised, chances are there is something very wrong with it. Kids are smart. Train them now on making good choices so when they are out on the street, they stay safe.

Mike Thompson is a health coach and writes about nutrition and amazing aging. He lives in Richmond Hill, is certified in exercise nutrition and founder of SelfCare Sustained. Reach him at MikeThompson@

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