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Published September 20, 2012, 11:30 PM

Holt: Parents’ diet influence only goes so far

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota launched two 34-second TV spots this month to help make parents think about the examples they’re setting for their children. The first, titled “Shopping,” shows a girl mimicking her mother’s every move while grocery shopping. When mom places a big tub of ice cream in her cart, daughter places one in hers.

By: Meredith Holt, INFORUM

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota launched two 34-second TV spots this month to help make parents think about the examples they’re setting for their children.

The first, titled “Shopping,” shows a girl mimicking her mother’s every move while grocery shopping. When mom places a big tub of ice cream in her cart, daughter places one in hers.

In the second, “Eating Out,” two boys try to out-brag the other over how much fast food their fathers can eat. Says one: “Yeah, well, MY dad can eat five buckets of fried chicken.”

The kids are happy and proud, but the parents are visibly distraught when they realize their children are following in their unhealthy footsteps.

A pretty weighty (no pun intended) “oh” reads across their faces before the following words flash across the final screen: “Today is the day we set a better example for our kids.”

The commercials are part of a larger statewide effort to reduce obesity levels, as studies show that nearly two-thirds of Minnesotans are overweight or obese, a press release from the Minnesota Blues says.

I never saw my mom put things like orange soda in her shopping cart, nor my dad eat a mountain of french fries with bacon and cheese, but I’m willing to bet a lot of my peers did.

One of them says she grew up in a home where there was no focus on nutrition, no diets or strict meal plans. Fast food was the norm.

“As children, you don’t really understand what unhealthy eating means unless you’re taught it,” my friend Jenna says.

From an early age, my parents gave me the knowledge and tools I needed to make healthy choices, but as soon as I had the freedom to do so for myself, I did the opposite.

They encouraged whole foods, portion control, high water intake, low salt, low fat, low sugar – everything every dietitian would recommend. I can still hear my dad saying, “Everything in moderation.”

In elementary school, it wasn’t “cool” to bring a brown bag packed with a PB&J, an orange and two homemade oatmeal cookies. Instead, I envied my friends who took a seat at the table with Lunchables, Gushers and Capri-Suns.

Holt family meals were almost always spent sharing thoughts about the day and a home-cooked dinner around the dining room table.

My mom taught me to stick to the “peripherals” of the grocery store, to substitute yogurt for sour cream, and to share my Peanut M&M’s.

Now I wish I was more grateful for the efforts my parents made to feed me whole, nutritious foods and to teach me healthy, well-balanced eating.

But once I was able to buy my own lunch and snacks at school, I ordered bagels with extra cream cheese, slices of greasy pepperoni pizza and giant chocolate chip cookies (oh man, were those good).

At my first “real” job, I ate the ice cream and french fries that I served my customers. College brought a smorgasbord of calorie-laden options from the cafeteria, and, well, anywhere else I wanted.

Though Jenna doesn’t blame her family for her weight problem (as I don’t blame mine for mine), she recognizes the role her upbringing played (as do I).

“I obviously know what healthy means now, and I have the choice to change and go my own way, but it was a contributing factor,” she says.

Though we were raised by parents with very different attitudes toward food and nutrition, we both ended up in the same place.

The best-laid plans of mice and moms …

Forum reporter Meredith Holt has lost 105 pounds since May 2010. She will share stories of her weight-loss journey in her column, which runs the first and third Friday of each month in SheSays.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590

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