Sure we can blame the food companies that advertise high caloric, fat riddled, salty and sugar laced foods to us via radio, television and even our smartphones, but could the removal of home economics in the classroom be the cause of our current obesity epidemic? Do Americans even know how to cook outside of the box, bottle, and tin can?
The U.S. currently has the highest rate of childhood obesity worldwide! In 2013 approximately 1/3 of American children were either overweight or obese with 17% specifically suffering from obesity. In fact, most of the American diet is comprised of 70% processed foods, which includes everything from chicken nuggets to crackers to even yogurt! It’s clear that children don’t understand the importance of healthy eating, but do parents understand? And if so, do they have the skills to lead by example?
America experienced a major cultural shift around the 1950’s when more working wives and mothers began to pursue convenience in the grocery aisle. Generations later, what began as shaving a few minutes off of dinner prep time, has resulted in a public health risk that threatens the health and well being of our growing population, and could ultimately bankrupt our nation in medical costs alone. In 2008, medical costs for obesity related illnesses rolled in at nearly $147 billion dollars!
Cue Superhero Music…
Enter Home Economics stage right…
Now I’m not suggesting that all women should tie on their aprons and whip up scratch cakes in the kitchen, I’m merely stating that given our current struggle with poor eating habits and limited food prep time, there needs to be a modern take on home economics (for both sexes of course) with a real emphasis on cooking minimally processed foods quickly, developing a strong foundation in nutrition education and portion control, and establishing a firm grasp on food safety and food preservation. This type of education would foster savvy consumers of all ages with the ability to differentiate healthy food options from those that are riddled with misleading labels.
As I reflected on our First Lady’s efforts to change the school lunch menu, it became apparent that her efforts gained little traction because so many American kids are eating fast or heavily processed foods at home! The shift in mindfulness on what our nation eats needs to happen in the classroom in order for parents and children to grasp the importance of healthy eating. What is emphasized in the classroom is more likely to be reinforced in the home. Furthermore, it provides parents with the opportunity to learn with their children if they lack some of the aforementioned skill sets.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not passing judgment on what you eat or what you feed your children. In fact, I write this after having just indulged in a few fist-fulls of caramel popcorn; and with a husband and 2 children under the age of 3, I can attest to living a busy life that sometimes interferes with everyday cooking. I’m only advocating for each and every one of us to have the opportunity to be educated on what it means to be a healthy eater so that we can make sound choices for our individual lives and for our families.
The ability to understand the basics of a nutritious meal and to execute it in a relatively short amount of time is something that would change American lives for generations to come.
It’s time we start raising healthy Americans in mind… and body.
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