CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dear Cindy,
I am a working mom with great intentions trying to keep up in our fast-paced life. I'm concerned that our kids, ages 7 and 10, aren't always getting all they need nutritionally. I do give them a multivitamin each day. I definitely put the effort out to cook, but we do eat fast food sometimes. I appreciate any advice you can give. -- Tracy
Yours is a great question shared by many good parents trying to do the best for their family. Life in the fast lane (i.e., two working parents, caring for children, making honest efforts to stay active and serve nutritious meals at the end of a long day) is no easy game. It must be met with a firm commitment and a never-ending desire to play a vigorous role in the family's health.
Average American diet
Unfortunately, only 8 percent of American's overall calorie intake comes from fruits and/or vegetables, while processed foods are being consumed at an astounding rate. We eat 30 percent more processed food than we do whole food, which leads at least half of us to rely on vitamin and mineral supplements to make up for our nutrition deficit.
Nutrition and health experts continue to emphasize the importance of eating whole foods, which is integral for a nutrient-dense meal, and to urge us to steer clear of processed foods that have little or no nutritional value. Hearing this information is one thing, digesting it is another.
What are whole foods?
Whole foods need little or no processing, have no additives and can be eaten in their natural state. There is nothing added and nothing taken away. They are superior to processed foods. The main reason we should avoid processed foods is that there is a strong correlation to disease risk.
Why? Because processed foods are usually packed with unhealthy amounts of calories, fat, sodium, saturated fat and sugar. They typically have little or no fiber. If we regularly serve this type of a calorie-dense diet to our children, we increase the chance they will become obese and raise their risk for many chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer and stroke.
Processed foods are tempting for many reasons -- and even good moms grab them on the go. They are usually easy to fix (just rip the cardboard off and microwave), last longer in your cabinet (because of all the preservatives) and can be less expensive (fillers like sodium, fat and sugar make them cheaper).
Can you point to the whole foods in your grocery store? It's not always simple in the beginning, but you don't have to be a nutritionist to make sound decisions for your family.
Here are some examples of whole vs. processed foods:
Fresh green beans vs. canned green beans
Strawberries vs. strawberry jam