Nutrition: Children don’t do their own shopping

Published 12:05 am Sunday, August 1, 2010

Of all Mississippi’s woes, it seems childhood obesity might be the easiest to address.

After all, few children drive themselves to grocery stores or fast-food restaurants. Children don’t plan menus or select items to put on the table. These jobs are reserved for adults, who all too often can be seen loading up carts with absolute junk — frozen pizzas, sugary drinks and super-sized sacks of chips. The produce sections are the loneliest areas of supermarkets, followed closely by the aisle where beef, chicken, fish, cheese and milk are sold.

As long as we’re preaching, let’s add this: It’s not because parents don’t know better. It’s impossible for anyone on this planet to go through a day without seeing or hearing about the importance of good nutrition to physical and mental health. The fact that we are what we eat is not exactly new. The first lady of the United States is just the latest in a long series of high-visibility adults honing in on this topic. We wish her every success.

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The hard fact is that while controlling childhood obesity should be a no-brainer, too many parents are catering to their children’s preferences — loading them up with empty calories, often to shut them up, and then wondering why their kids are lethargic and bringing home poor grades. Too often the excuses of “too busy to cook” or “too poor to buy other groceries” are invoked. The former is a cop-out and the latter is a lie.

Being a parent is a commitment. We understand that parents — especially working single parents — have less time to spend in the kitchen than people of leisure. But it takes the same amount of time to put a package of peeled and ready-to-eat carrots in the shopping cart as it does to dump in a mega-sized box of cookies.

As for expense, wholesome foods that require some preparation at home are, across-the-board, less expensive than microwave meals.

A new school year starts this week. It’s a busy time for everyone, but we hope all parents will make a commitment to do right by their children. It’s not a kid’s fault if he or she is overweight. Our children are healthier and happier when they receive good nutrition. Only parents can make sure they get it.