Photo by Flickr member slightly everything, used under a Creative Commons License.
Proper nutrition was never a topic of conversation in my house growing up. I had a stay-at-home mom who cooked three square meals a day from scratch, each of which always included a veggie. Granted, they were rarely fresh, mostly frozen or canned, but they were veggies none-the-less. (I still can't look a canned asparagus in the eye. Blech.)
When I was old enough to go to school, she packed my lunch with the typical Wonder bread peanut butter and jelly or bologna sandwich and a healthy snack, usually fruit like an apple or banana or orange. It was not often that we were allowed "junk" like Little Debbie snack cakes or cookies. And it was only on very rare occasions that we'd get fast food. While other kids were starting their mornings with sugary cereals like Lucky Charms or Cocoa Puffs, it was eggs and toast or plain oatmeal for me.
But then when I was 6, my elderly grandmother moved in with us. She was very ill and had little interest in food except for sweets. So all of a sudden, the kitchen was fully stocked with cakes and cookies and ice cream. Before I knew it, I was the chubby kid. And I've struggled with my weight ever since—minus that period right after college that I have affectionately deemed "Amy: The Skinny Years." Ah, but a brief shining moment in history.
It's not like I didn't know the difference between healthy and non-healthy foods. It's just that it was never really presented to me in a cause/effect relationship with exercise and portion control. And then there was the "clean your plate" mentality that my parents, like many post-Depression Era babies, had ingrained. You better believe that if I didn't finish my dinner, it would be waiting for me at the table for breakfast.
Now with a son of my own (and a husband with a raging sweet tooth), I worry about teaching him proper diet and exercise when he's old enough to understand. I don't want to give the kid a complex, but the statistics for childhood obesity are alarming. 1 in 3 U.S. kids is considered overweight or obese. I don't want that for my son.
Parents with older children, what do you do? Do you let your child eat what he/she wants? Have you banned "junk" food completely, or do you allow it in moderation? Do you encourage your child to get outside and play or exercise some other way?