The American Year of the Vegetable

Ever since we met our Chinese graduate student, back in 1999, I've enjoyed figuring out what the current Chinese year is. For instance, 2010 has been the year of the Tiger, while 2011, starting February 3rd will be the Year of the Rabbit.

vegetable medley

But an Opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal today was titled "2011: The Year of the Vegetable." I read that and my copy of the Harvard Heart Letter, which arrived in this afternoon's mail, and found they were both urging us once again to eat  more veggies (and, in the latter case, more fruits).The newspaper article's theme was slanted toward preventing childhood obesity and its many significant consequences, diabetes and joint problems among them.

As the writer of the piece stressed, it's not the kids fault. We as adults and especially as parents and grandparents need to provide healthy choices and strong roles models. Which is to say, we ourselves are responsible for the epidemic of obesity in our youngsters.

How do I mean that? Well to start with our kids should be given healthy food and see that we also eat those foods. Recently, in two iterations, Lynnette and I hosted young adult children of old friends. Their parents are a doc and a nurse who worked for me in the Air Force. One twenty-two year-old  man came with his college roommate for a six-day stay. His older sister, a senior in medical school, visited here for two days while applying for the local Family Practice residency.

Even more veggies

All three young adults ate everything we suggested, including Brussels sprouts (we microwave or steam them and they're a completely different vegetable than the over-cooked ones I had as a child).

I asked the two whose parents I knew, "How come you are so willing to try different foods?

Both responded, "Our mother, when we were kids, said we had two choices. We could eat what the family was having...or we could starve."

I know their folks and I'm sure they would never have allowed the kids to starve, but  they both got the message. "learn to eat everything."

The author of the Opinion article mentioned that only 26% of adults (this came from a recent Center for Disease Control & Prevention survey) eat three or more veggie servings a day. He added that some of those who claim to match that minimum intake would count a hamburger  topped with a tomato or lettuce as a veggie serving.

That means three quarters of us don't meet that standard. Why? Probably because as kids, we didn't acquire a taste for eating them in the presence of adults who did.

So it's up to us to help our youngsters learn what a healthy diet is. And we better start now, or we're, in a sense, dooming our offspring.

I know those are strong words, but think about what's happening with our children; many of them are eating the wrong things and exercising less than we did as kids. Will their lifespan be shorter?

It's time and past time to set examples.

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