Parents - Do Not Let Your Stress Cause You To Feed Your Child a Junk Food Diet7 months ago | Nutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
Stress can be one of the biggest hurdles when it comes to successfully maintaining our health.
And being a parent may contribute to our stress, because we are responsible for our children’s health when they are young and living under our roofs. Children tend to adopt habits of their parents. For example, If you are a smoker and you smoke in front of your child, perhaps he or she will not think that smoking is bad for their health. If you lead an active lifestyle, your child will likely want to engage in physical activities. And, of course, the type of food (healthy versus unhealthy) you provide in the home will influence your child’s diet and, as a result, his or her health.
My son is in his twenties now, but when he was younger, the combination of my job, my son’s extracurricular activities, social obligations, taking care of my own health as well as many other things on the daily to do list sometimes made cooking healthy meals at home seem near impossible. And it’s not just about being busy, it’s about feeling stressed. Stress can be detrimental to both our physical and mental health. As a result, we have to figure out a way to effectively manage stress in our lives and get our stress levels under control. After all, stress is always going to make its way into our lives at some point. We have to learn how to appropriately respond to stress.
A recent study showed that stressed parents often rely on junk foods to feed their children. The researchers of the study surveyed parents from 256 American families with children between the ages of two to five. The parents’ psychological well being, sleep quality and family mealtime habits and food choices were noted, according to this report discussing the study.
"The higher their psychological distress, the less healthy food is available in the home and the more unhealthy the feeding practices are for their children," said one of the lead researchers.
The researchers also conducted in-depth interviews with some of the parents and found that stressed parents prioritized convenience over health. Essentially, the stressed parents just felt like they lacked the energy and time to prepare meals at home, so they depended on fast foods and processed foods that you can just pop in the oven or microwave.
According to the report, “The researchers expected the reliance on less-healthy eating would result in higher rates of obesity among the children of parents experiencing more psychological distress.”
And if our children are overweight or obese, the more likely they are to remain so as adults, which may increase their risk for a variety of diseases, including heart disease, cancer, depression and diabetes.
Not to mention, the incidence of childhood obesity in the United States has more than tripled since the 1970s. Currently, one in five school-aged children (ages 6-19) are obese. In addition to this, approximately one-third of American youth are overweight.
How can you be proactive?
Here are a few tips and a few things to keep in mind:
- It’s not about being perfect. It’s about consistency. I think as parents we tend to put a pressure on ourselves to be the ‘perfect parent.’ And when we feel like we have failed at this, we get even more stressed and throw in the towel and order that pizza. So just try to remember that we can’t beat ourselves up and that it’s okay to have pizza every once in a while for dinner. Just try not to make it a daily or weekly habit. And remember, just because you have pizza does not mean you can’t have a simple side salad with it.
- Put yourself first. This is super hard for a parent to do, but remember there’s a reason why flight attendants on aircrafts instruct you to give yourself oxygen first before your child in the event of an emergency. You also should apply this concept to daily life. We clearly see from the study discussed that if a parent is stressed, the child will not be living in as healthy as a home that she or he could be living in. So do whatever you have to do to get your stress levels under control, even if it means saying ‘No!’ to activities that interfere with your ability to care for yourself.
- Learn how to steer around picky eaters. It would be great if kids loved eating bowls of broccoli instead of ice cream, but this is certainly not the case with most kids. But you can teach kids how delicious and satisfying eating healthily can be by involving them in meal prep and talking to them about why a nutritious diet is so important. Herbs and spices may also be a secret weapon to getting kids to eat more veggies.
- Set yourself up for success. If you don’t plan out your meals in advance, it can be hard to stick to eating healthily consistently. Perhaps pick Sunday as your day to go to the farmers’ market with your child and chop up fresh produce you can stock your refrigerator with. If you feel like you lack time, stock your freezer with frozen fruits and veggies. Frozen grapes are a great snack. Keep in mind oatmeal and fruit smoothies are relatively easy breakfasts you can make in large batches and much healthier than sugary, processed cereals.
Finally, if you can’t get to the root of your stress and fatigue, I would highly recommend taking a comprehensive nutrient test. If you are not nutritionally balanced, this could definitely be the reason why you may not be feeling like your healthiest and most energetic self. If the test determines you have too much or too little of a certain nutrient, a competent healthcare professional can work with you on making the necessary dietary changes and recommend supplements if you need them. It is also recommended that your child takes nutrient tests as well.
What are your tips and tricks for getting your kids to eat healthily? Please join the conversation.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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