Friday, March 9, 2012

Family Dinners

I never really knew much about healthy eating as was pointed out in my last post. I didn't have anyone to teach me all the ins and outs of maintaining a healthy weight by eating properly from each food group. My gym teacher at some point quite possibly had one or two classes where we discussed the food groups, but if you are living in a home that is not following those guidelines, you tend to just breeze through class and memorize whatever is necessary to pass the test; then all is lost from the memory thereafter. I think I remember more about my first class on sex-ed during Grade 9 than anything concerning the food pyramid from the semester before ;)

One thing I remember about my childhood is that I mostly took care of myself starting around Grade 3. Now, as mentioned earlier, my mother was a wonderful cook. However, there was a time in my life between the ages of 8 to12 that she was a single mother working two jobs to care for me. Most mornings I got up and made myself a bowl of cereal or put a bowl of oatmeal in the microwave before walking to school alone. I remember in the summers I made my own sandwiches or any type of Chef Boyardee pasta for my lunch. I have been using a microwave on my own for as long as I can remember. I also remember having money for the vending machines at school to buy all the junk food I wanted. I lived on Twinkies, Hostess cupcakes and Cherry Coke! The only vegetables that entered my body were whatever the school lunch consisted of.

Because my parents were divorced and living in different states, I usually spent 6 months with one parent and 6 months with the other. Time spent with my dad was a little unusual too. My father owned a bar and was gone from early afternoon until the middle of the night. I saw him sometimes on the weekends, but that was about it. My stepmother worked for the phone company and did what she could to keep the family going. I had a stepbrother and stepsister by her (both of whom were older than me) and I also had an older sister living there as well. My sister spent the majority of her time taking care of me because she was 9 years older. So between the three older siblings and a stepmother, someone was usually cooking. Now that I'm older, I realize it was probably too expensive for us to go out to eat as a family six. I remember on the weekends that my stepmother would try hard to have everyone at the table for breakfast together as a family. It didn't always work out that way, but I remember thinking it was better than being alone and cooking for myself when I lived with my mother.

What about fast food? How much of  a role does it play in today's world? Our world has become so fast-paced and go, go, go that no one sits down to a healthy dinner anymore. Most families are eating burgers in their car as they rush from one activity to another. As well, some households have dual working parents that are just too tired to cook a meal after working all day. Years ago, when I was child/teenager, fast-food restaurants were around but they were not a huge part of our life. They were generally something that our parents or grandparents treated us to when we were good or had something to celebrate. However, today, they are so many fast food or general restaurants that it would seem people are spending less time at home cooking meals.

With all of this in mind, how important is it for a child to learn about the food pyramid and healthy eating habits? Over the last couple of decades as I've been an adult, I have really noticed that people do not cook in the home and sit down with their families to supper after cooking a healthy meal. There is such a variety of restaurants available on almost every corner of every city that no one needs to cook for themselves anymore. I personally believe this coupled with sitting on our butts in front of TVs, computers and video games have helped lead us to a world filled with obesity. People have become less active and more prone to eat food filled with too much sodium, sugar and things we cannot even pronounce; and for when we are at home cooking, there are too many processed foods filling our pantries and not enough fresh vegetables and fruits. I believe that learning something as simple as the food pyramid would help people understand more about what is healthy and lead them to keep healthier food in their homes so that we can live longer lives.

Another thing I have noticed is how things are processed differently in the United States and Canada. I'm an American; born and raised in Louisiana. However, I married a Canadian and have lived happily north of the border for over 10 years. I love it here. When I first moved here and I went grocery shopping, I noticed that certain things tasted differently. One example is the cereal Fruit Loops. That is something that I grew up eating. But, the Fruit Loops in Canada tasted different; very different. My husband thought I was crazy and was just being a food princess. LOL But as I bought more things that I was used to eating, I noticed that nothing tastes the same even though it's supposed to be the same product. More recently, I read a story about a Canadian woman who had weight-loss surgery and on Saturdays she liked to get an egg breakfast from McDonalds as her weekly treat. It had never given her a problem since she had her surgery. However, one Saturday morning she found herself at a McDonald's in the States. She noticed it tasted a little different...more salty or buttery. She got sick after she ate it and I can't help but believe she may have gotten dumping syndrome because the ingredient contents are different from one country to another.

So what does this mean? It is definitely something I am going to investigate. I think Canada has different guidelines for sodium, sugar, etc. intake than in other countries. I do know that overseas a variety of different countries DO use less salt, sugar, etc. in their foods than in the United States. One good thing that has happened most recently over the last couple of years is that restaurants are having to make nutritional information available to patrons. I think this is a good thing for those of us who are on special diets so that we may continue to eat out with our families every now and then and make better choices as to what to order.

But wouldn't it be nice to get back to having dinner with our families after having made a healthy homemade meal in our own kitchens? This is something that we practice in our home. We eat supper together 5 or 6 days a week...sitting down at the dining table together and discussing our day and just enjoying each other's company and we ALWAYS sit down together for Sunday lunch/supper. I believe this is one way to instil good family values in our kids. But I also hope that it gives them good memories so that they may continue the tradition when they have families of their own one day.

Cheers and Much Love! 


  1. Teaching kids to eat more fruits and vegetables and exercise more is pretty much what my master's thesis is about...I think it's so important. nice blog!

  2. Recent studies by the Canadian government about sodium intake. The numbers are staggering!

    In Canada, it has been estimated that if the average sodium intake is decreased by 1,840 mg/day--roughly equivalent to bringing it down from the current intake to the AI of 1,500 mg/day--hypertension prevalence would be decreased by 30%. This would result in approximately one million fewer hypertension patients and direct annual cost savings of $430 million due to fewer physician visits, laboratory tests and drug use.19 It is also estimated that such a decrease in sodium intake would prevent 23,500 cardiovascular disease events per year in Canada, representing a decrease of 13% over current numbers.19 Such a decrease would contribute an additional $949 million annually in direct savings.

    Using the most recent (1998) data available, it is estimated that the direct costs associated with cardiovascular diseases at that time were $6.82 billion and the indirect costs were $11.65 billion, for a total of $18.47 billion.

    Overall, reducing sodium by about 1,800 mg per day would result in direct health care savings of $1.38 billion per year, and if indirect costs were included the savings would be $2.99 billion per year.20 It should be noted that these calculations are based on 1993 costs and are likely much greater in current (2010) dollars. While these savings estimates are based on 1993 data, cost of cardiovascular diseases in Canada, published in 1998, indicate that direct costs were $6.82 billion, and indirect costs were 11.65 billion

    Projected Effects of Population-Wide Sodium Reduction in the United States
    3 g salt (1200 mg sodium) decrease in population average sodium intake

    Coronary heart disease down by between 60,000 and 120,000 cases annually.
    Stroke down by between 32,000 and 66,000 cases annually.
    Myocardial infarction down by between 54,000 and 99,000 cases annually.
    Deaths from all sources down by 44,000 and 92,000 annually.
    194,000 to 392,000 quality-adjusted life years would be saved.
    Savings in health care costs would range from $10 to $24 billion annually.

    1 g salt (400 mg sodium) decrease in population average sodium intake achieved over a 10-year period

    Coronary heart disease down by between 20,000 and 40,000 cases annually.
    Stroke down by between 11,000 and 23,000 cases annually.
    Myocardial infarction down by between 18,000 and 35,000 cases annually.
    Deaths from all sources down by between 15,000 and 32,000 annually.