Jim Collar: Family health project pays early dividends

Jan. 28, 2013
Bag of vegetables
Bag of vegetables / Jupiterimages/Getty Images/Brand X
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I grew up smiling along with Ronald McDonald, appreciating the greatness of Tony the Tiger and digging Dig ’Em the Frog.

Today, as a parent, I’m far more digging the recent recognition that all those pervasive voices will carry lesser weight than Mom and Dad with just a little bit of work.

Childhood obesity is a scary issue. We hadn’t run into any particular problems, though came to recognize convenient access to junk food isn’t going to disappear. We decided to make some changes before it became a pressing matter.

I’ll admit: I wasn’t eagerly awaiting my 9-year-old’s reaction to learning we’d no longer stock soda and fast food would become the rare treat.

He’s taken it in stride. We’re learning together.

We’ve all made some sacrifices. We didn’t offer our son the easier “because we said so” reason for the notable changes to our grocery cart. Instead, we watched a couple documentaries on what poor diets can do to the body. We talked about good foods as a family.

We’ve had some fun in trying to come up with healthier versions of our favorites. It’s become a family project.

Just that quickly, my boy, Parker, took some ownership and spent time examining labels aside his parents. He recently scolded me for the single-slice pizza box discovered in my car from one of those ill planned, five-minute lunch break kind of days.

We haven’t won the war. We still encounter a touch of salesmanship when approaching the candy aisle.

I’m pleased to report we’re getting there.

Our food culture is interesting and complex. Problems pertaining to diet are multi-faceted when viewed on a macro scale. Advocacy groups have put all sorts of pressure on the food industry in regard to their appeals to youngsters. It makes sense on its face, recognizing the industry wouldn’t spend so much money on fun, colorful commercials if the message wasn’t getting through.

Our initial steps down a healthier path offered an empowering lesson. Those voices have the attention of our children for intermittent, 30-second periods. We as parents have their attention at far greater and more regular durations. It’s a matter of taking advantage.

A bright, cheery, animated food ad hit the television on a recent Saturday morning. I was impressed when Parker turned to me and said, “I’m guessing that’s not very good for you.”

Of course, parents can just say “no.” We hoped to develop a good attitude toward good foods rather than any resentment or jealousy of kids carrying lunch boxes laden with junk.

We still have our work to do and it begins and ends with setting the right example. I’m fairly certain the boy would still choose the doughnut over the juicy apple. I’m also sure that, this far into our family project, he’d also pause a second or two before doing so.

We’re getting there.

— Jim Collar: 920-993-1000, ext. 216, or jcollar@postcrescent.com

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