My last blog was about obesity and nutrition. I was puzzled by the response from parents to the advice of changing their child’s nutrition: it’s hard. In comparison, I referenced the difficulty of having a child diagnosed with cancer.
Recently, a friend and colleague requested I blog again – this time, giving specifics about nutrition change.
First, I want to address the differences between having to change your life when a child is diagnosed with cancer and changing what you eat. There are several:
- When your child has cancer, you really don’t have a choice. You take them to the doctor, the hospital, the lab, etc., because essentially, you have no choice. Sometimes having choices makes it more difficult to make the right choice.
- Prayerfully, a child is cured of cancer and, eventually, you’re finished with all the changes to your routine. Changing nutrition habits should be a lifelong, daily, three-times-per-day effort.
- Cancer you want to get rid of and stay rid of! You can’t get rid of food. You have to eat. You have to battle temptation, convenience, cost ALL THE TIME.
Why make a difficult, uncomfortable, time-consuming choice? The problem with poor nutrition isn’t just obesity. The problem with poor nutrition is it affects everyone who eats poorly. Forty percent of non-overweight people are at risk for the same complications of obesity because of poor nutrition. Those include asthma, diabetes, cancer, fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, fatigue, depression, orthopedic issues and heart disease – just to name a few. And unfortunately, most of us eat poorly most of the time.
What defines poor nutrition? The simple answer is eating food that is not real. By that, I mean food that has been manipulated-pulverized and added to. An apple is a whole, real food. When you grind up an apple, you destroy the filling fiber and much of the nutritional value.
So why do we eat poorly? There are several answers. One is that we have forgotten how to eat any other way. We get up. If we eat breakfast at all, we grab a bowl of cereal, piece of toast, or maybe a danish. None of those things are real, whole foods. Our bodies quickly take those foods and store them as fat. Then we are tired, so we grab a doughnut mid-morning which spikes our insulin again – and again stores the excess as fat. And so it goes.
So, how does someone start? What works? What is the goal? What are the specifics?
The following are recommendations for healthy children, adolescents and adults. They do not apply to people with special nutritional requirements.
- Decide to make the change as a family unit. This increases the percentage of success. If there is divorce or separation, it’s vital to get acceptance and agreement from all involved.
- Attempt to eliminate all processed carbohydrates from the diet for two weeks (no bread, pasta, soda, chips, sports drinks, juice, cereal, pancakes, cakes, pies, crackers).
- Eliminate the above from home and work. No one has the will power to resist something staring at them!
- Drink water. Aim for 40 to 60 ounces per day
- Meal plan. Make a plan for seven days that includes three meals each day and one to two snacks. Then go to the store and buy ONLY WHAT IS ON THE LIST.
- Pick someone to have accountability to – family, bloggers, someone.
- If you make a mistake, start again! Review how you goofed and try to avoid the situation.
- Aim for three servings of real fruit and four servings of real vegetables per day. Corn and potatoes DO NOT COUNT!
An example day:
Breakfast - an egg with real, grated-off-the-block cheese, and strawberries with four to six ounces of milk for a child and tea without sugar for an adult.
Mid-morning snack - grab 12 ounces of water and a handful of non-roasted almonds.
Lunch - Real sliced turkey wrapped in a lettuce leaf with a peach and water to drink. Avoid condiments! Just look at the label and you’ll see they’re full of sugar.
Mid-afternoon snack - Red pepper slices with hummus.
Dinner – A lean chicken breast, asparagus, green beans and quinoa.
You really can do this, but it requires change, thought and organization. And yes, it’s hard. But it’s doable and it’s important. If you compare the cost of the above to eating out, it’s also affordable.
My experience has been that parents will do things for their kids they won’t do for themselves. For example, they’ll take their sick child to the doctor before they’ll take themselves. Re-evaluating and re-engineering the nutrition of the family is good for the whole family and requires effort by the whole family. The payoff is the whole family spends more time together and is healthier. That’s what I’m counting on! Give it a try!