Despite the provocative headlines, the study did not prove that working mothers were at fault. Instead, it simply outlined the societal trends that were occurring at the same time as the weight problems were becoming more widespread. In fact, the research lacked any specific information on children’s diets or exercise habits.
Other possible factors were noted, but were less sexy, so they didn’t make the headlines – namely, the explosion of sugary junk foods; unhealthy food ads aimed at kids; increasing availability of high fat, high sugar meals in schools; and larger portions served in restaurants.
Modern families, especially those where single parents or dual-career couples are working, do of course create an even higher demand for convenient food. However, mothers AND fathers are equally responsible for encouraging their children to follow a healthy lifestyle. It’s not just the mother’s responsibility.
So the question is, how can we all, as responsible citizens, create sensible eating and exercise habits? Firstly, convenient food doesn’t necessarily have to be unhealthy. As a consumer, be choosy about what you buy – read the labels and steer clear of highly processed food. Secondly, you can make it easier to eat healthy food at home if you make more of a concerted effort.
Here are a few quick tips:
1. Plan a week’s menu at a time – planning saves time in the long run
2. Double the recipe whenever you’re preparing a home-cooked meal and cook more than one meal at a time – that way you only have to wash the dishes once!
3. Load up on fresh vegetables, fruits and salads – they’re easy to digest and take little preparation time
4. Be creative with your leftovers by turning them into appetizing salads – take your cooked meats, vegetables, rice or potatoes and slice them up, then toss with fresh lettuce and add a simple olive oil/balsamic vinegar dressing
5. Shop online – takes the drudgery out of shopping and gives you time and energy to enjoy the cooking (unless of course you enjoy the shopping, unlike me)
Thirdly, practice what you preach. Children do as you do, not as you say, so set a good example in terms of what you eat and how much you exercise. Find the activity that you enjoy most and make it part of your daily schedule. Take family walks in the evening in the neighbourhood. Go for family bike rides.
Blaming weight problems on working mothers is easy. Taking responsibility for weight problems as parents, citizens, educators, governmental leaders and business people is much more difficult, but achievable with the right focus.