It’s undeniable. Over the last, say, 50 years, the landscape of our dinner tables has changed dramatically. In fact, many of us don’t even eat regularly with family or at a dinner table at all. At the same time, obesity is at epidemic levels. Two out of every three people are overweight or obese, and about every four and a half minutes, one American dies from obesity — a highly preventable disease. Do you think these two occurrences (the changing of our diets and the rise in obesity) are coincidental? I don’t.

Why has obesity overtaken our country? There are many factors that come into play.

Time

We spend so much time at work, at school, at church, with friends, etc. that we don’t make time for preparing meals. We see meal prep as wasted time instead of an investment. We all need food to fuel us, but since we have quick options (aka fast food), we opt for those instead of spending an extra 20 minutes to make something healthy.

Lack of knowledge

Most people learn how to prepare meals from helping or watching family members, but what happens when families stop cooking? Well, children don’t know how to prepare food. In fact, they can’t even identify fruits and vegetables. There are many children now who are not just the first generation who doesn’t cook, but the second or third, and at some point, they have no parents or grandparents to learn from. There are now many people that don’t know how to feed themselves and don’t even realize what a valuable skill it is.

A multitude of options

For just a few bucks, you can get a pretty good size meal just around the block. Why cook when you can pay someone else to do it for you? The problem is home-cooked meals are almost always significantly healthier than anything you buy at a restaurant.

Unhealthy food is cheap

You can get a box of toaster pastries or sugary cereal for super cheap and it will stay good for years, but it’s also full of sugar and almost no real nourishment. Produce, on the other hand, can be quite costly, particularly if out of season. Plus, much of the money you spend on produce goes to waste because it spoils quickly. Regardless of prices, healthy foods are worth the investment. (Interested in healthy produce that doesn’t spoil? Check out Activz fruit and veggie powders.)

What can we do to change?

Education is key. It will always be most effective if food education comes from family. When good eating habits are fostered in homes, they stay with kids into adulthood. Having regular meals and taking time to prepare healthy homemade meals is a vastly underrated life skill. Unfortunately, some families simply can’t make this happen, and that’s why education in schools is important too. Even a one-hour session with a nutritionist could change a whole classroom of kids’ eating habits forever.

eating-habitsLet’s resolve to teach our kids this valuable life skill. Let’s teach them about nutrients, calories and the different kinds of fats. Let’s teach them portion control and self control. Let’s teach them how to steam vegetables, boil an egg, make a sandwich and cook chicken. Even a few basic recipes can make a world of difference for a young person and set a pattern for the rest of his or her life.

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Holly Proctor

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