Pop Quiz:

The celebration at your house is over.  You:

A. Start cleaning up, munching as you go on all the left over goodies, and wrapping up the remains to be eaten later, saving the best stuff in your private stash.

B. Hand leftovers to friends and family as they walk out the door, wrap up the fresh stuff, and toss the junk in the garbage.

C.  Finish every last goody that night so you won’t be “tempted”

D. Let it sit out and throw it all away in the morning.

Delicious Chocolate CakeAs ridiculous as some of those answers sound, we can find ourselves somewhere among them.  Is there a correct answer?  It serves to show us that our lifelong beliefs about food (which were shaped by our parents and their parents) affect the way we view the value of food. Many of us were brought up by our post-depression era parents who loathed wastefulness.  We are bringing up our children with those same messages…“There are children starving in India,”  “Waste not, want not”, “Clean your plate”, and the dreaded,“No dessert until you finish your dinner.”

Things have changed.  We live a fast paced life, with very little home cooking.  We eat and feed our kids what is convenient.  Out of a bag, or the freezer, or a box…We eat too fast and we eat too much.  The biggest problem I am seeing with the rise of childhood obesity is parents who make their children eat food that they should not even be consuming in the first place.

open soda can top isolated on white backgroundRecently I watched a parent force an 8 year old child to finish a can of Sprite.  When I questioned it, he replied “We don’t waste food in this family.”

“Aha!” I thought.  This is exactly why our kids are among the unhealthiest in the world. There has to be some kind of solution.  Our kids are addicted to sugar and processed foods.  Why?  Because sometimes as parents, it is easier to offer them out of convenience or a method of bribery, and then insist they finish all of it, even though little tummies fill up fast.

With all of the chemicals, additives, and unhealthy ingredients, it is similar to handing someone you love a bottle of poison and saying, “Make sure you finish all of it.”  Think about it.

The health implications are severe.  Read the statistics.  We are an unhealthy population, spending millions of dollars on diseases that are totally preventable.  It starts in the home.  Throw away the garbage and keep the fresh stuff plentiful and available.  Trust me, it will all get eaten when you don’t default to chips!

Tips for healthy eating and reducing waste:

Fruits and Vegetables in Grocery Store1.  Don’t buy so much junk to begin with.  Offer fresher, healthier alternatives.  Don’t be afraid to clean out the pantry and pitch the junk!

2. Do not, under any circumstances, force feed a child food that most health professionals would agree is “poison.”

3. Limit your opportunities for junk.  Just say, “No thanks,” when someone hands you the leftover cake to take!

4. Don’t finish it yourself, just to satisfy your urge to not be wasteful.  Pizza crust really doesn’t taste that good!  You can save hundreds of calories a day with this tip.

5. Learn to throw garbage where it belongs…in the garbage!!!

Oh, and those starving people in India?  They are still starving.

My suggestions?

-Volunteer at a food bank or homeless shelter once a month.

-Adopt a child overseas and send a monthly donation.

-Get the family involved in community outreach events.

-Sponsor a family for the holidays.

If you are really concerned about starving people, there are thousands of ways to help.  Eating all the left over birthday cake isn’t one of them.

Jerny Rieves, cscs, pes, ces, health education - health educator - Scottsdale