As a child, I always loved going to my best friend’s house because her parents would take us out to eat for every meal. I knew that spending the night at her house meant we were going to wake up, go to the local deli where I would order a massive ham and cheese omelette, eat it all, and then drive across the street to get a Starbucks frappuccino (of course I would drink the whole thing). For lunch, we might have McDonald’s or Taco Bell, and we would always grab an ice cream cone before they dropped me back off at home.
Going home after being treated like such perceived royalty was always upsetting to me. Not only did I not get to choose what I was going to eat for dinner at home, but I wasn’t allowed to drink my favorite soda alongside it either.
Fast forward 12 years, and just the thought of eating a McDonald’s hamburger or the latest combination of “beef,” cheese, lettuce, and tortilla from Taco Bell makes me cringe. (The ice cream, however, is a different story.)
In school, there wasn’t much effort made to teach us how to eat healthy. Pop-Tarts were completely acceptable for breakfast. For lunch we were given something that looked like a quesadilla, french fries, chocolate milk, and an apple. For dinner we were taught that a balanced meal was supposed to contain carbs, meat, and a couple pieces of something green.
Throughout my entire school career, there was little-to-no focus on teaching us how to cook or what to eat. In my school’s defense, they did teach us some great things. They taught us drugs are bad, that we should brush our teeth, shower, study, and get good grades so we could eventually go to a good college and get high-paying jobs.
Unfortunately, very little of what we were taught seems to be helping with America’s obesity problem: as of 2012, each state now has above 20% obesity, with the highest state percentage clocking in at 34.4%. To call this a “major problem” would be a major understatement.
Teachers are given health and nutrition curriculum for each school year, but with time restrictions and increasing class sizes, they hardly have any time to teach from the book and it tends to get lost on a bookshelf somewhere.
An old teacher and friend of mine commented on the issue, expressing more concern about children’s eating habits at home than at school. Michelle Obama has taken a step in the right direction for school lunches, requiring that each child takes at least one fruit and one vegetable from the lunch cart, and making sure that more healthful choices are provided in the cafeteria. What children are eating at home is another story entirely. More and more parents these days are working full-time jobs that leave them tired at the end of the day, passively searching for a quick and easy dinner for the family.
Fast food in America provides a family with quick, easy, and inexpensive meals an average of four to five times per week.
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a home where my mom’s only job was to stay home and take care of my siblings and I. She had time to make us dinner every night and, while she wasn’t a gourmet cook, I can guarantee that everything she fed us was significantly better for us than what we would get at any fast food joint. Looking back, I appreciate how hard she worked to make sure that we were eating real food, and her efforts to keep fast food out of our daily lives is a huge reason why I am as healthy and active as I am today.
Our generation may turn out to be the first generation that does not know how to cook properly for ourselves.
Cooking classes have been removed from many of our schools, or are barely scraping by with the dwindling amount of students that are interested in the art. With the development of the internet, smart phones, Facebook, text messaging, FaceTime, Skype, and any other social networking platforms, kids aren’t spending time with their parents in the kitchen and learning recipes to pass down to future generations like they used to. Instead, they hide away in their rooms until their parents text them: “UR food is ready.” Or worse, their parents allow them to bring their food back to their room to eat in front of the computer.
I think it’s time for parents to take some initiative, and get their children back in the kitchen.
Make dinner together.
Start with just a couple of nights a week.
It doesn’t need to be fancy, just make it real food.
Turn off the television.
Talk amongst yourselves.
It may feel unnatural at first, but it will be fulfilling.
In the long run, it will be one of the best things you will ever do for your family.
Diseases will be prevented, obesity percentages will decrease, relationships will be built and restored, and most importantly, new experiences, laughter and stories will be shared.