A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

A Little Food With Our Salt and Sugar?

Posted on: September 11, 2014

heart institute

Visit the University of Ottawa Heart Institute’s website for heart-healthy advice.

When I was growing up, there weren’t that many overweight people. So those of us carrying extra weight stood out.

Now, with our supersized, over-salted, over-sugared food, more and more North Americans are overweight, as Dr. Andrew Pipe of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute discussed on 1310 News this morning.

At the same time, eating disorders are on the rise, particularly among girls aged 10 to 19, as the Canadian Institute for Health Information reported last week.

Even though we know that we need to eat more healthfully—such as by choosing more whole grains, fruit and vegetables and by cutting back on sugar and salt—our often-on-the-go lives make it a challenge to improve our diet and pass on healthy eating habits to our children.

If rising levels of obesity and eating disorders don’t motivate us to make changes, maybe we should look into our family medical history to see whether heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes are less than rare. And consider s. 2228 of the Catechism:

Parents’ respect and affection are expressed by the care and attention they devote to bringing up their young children and providing for their physical and spiritual needs.

Shouldn’t providing for our children’s physical needs include helping them develop a healthy relationship with food? I’ve struggled with this for much of my life, and I don’t want my son to do the same.

A new school year can be a great time to make a fresh start in our relationship with food:

  • Bring our own lunches. Homemade lunches are cheaper and healthier in the long run and don’t have to be boring: during back-to-school sales, I saw collapsible bento boxes and salad containers with sections for all the fixings so the salad is fresh at lunchtime.
  • Shine a spotlight on seasonal produce. In this area, fall is prime time for apples and squash. Kids might be willing to try a new variety if they’ve picked it or helped prepare it.
  • Pick up something new at the grocery store or try a new food at a cultural festival. Lately I’ve been trying one new grocery item each week and sampling foods I’ve never tried at cultural fairs. Varying our diet can help keep boredom from setting in—and thus help keep fast food from seeming more appealing.
  • Teach our children and youth how to shop and cook. If they know where to find healthy food at the store and how to prepare it, they won’t be at a loss when they live on their own and have to cook for themselves. Preparing meals together can be good family time, too.
  • Eat at the table as a family and say grace at meals. We’re more likely to eat more slowly and connect with one another when we’re not distracted by TV, cell phones, and so on. And we can remember to be thankful that we have food on the table when many families must choose between household expenses and food. Which brings me to my last point…
  • Donate to the local food bank. With lower donation levels in summer, food bank shelves need restocking. We need to remember those who struggle to put food on the table and teach our children to do the same, maybe by having them choose several cans or a few dollars’ worth of food to donate and letting them place the items in the donation bin. Or by collecting items from grocery store donation bins to deliver to the food bank (possibly another way for high school students to earn some of their volunteer hours).

I pray that those struggling with weight issues would find the support needed to reach a healthy weight and that God would guide us in helping our families develop a healthy relationship with food.

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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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