I while back, I had the chance to hang out with my nieces and nephew in Texas. One night, their mom (my BFF) suggested that we all watchFed Uptogether- a brilliant movie that I have been using for the few years to teach kids and families about the dangers of sugar.
In this groundbreaking documentary film by producers Laurie David and Katie Couric, the spotlight is focussed on the pervasive and insidious nature of sugar, its massive contribution to the obesity epidemic, and how food producers and manufactures use it, abuse it and hide it from us all in the name of the almighty dollar.
Sometimes, when I show the film to adults, it takes them about 30 minutes to cop on to the fact that the movie is about sugar. My ten year old nephew, however, got it. Like, right away. He was fascinated by the film, the stories of the obese children struggling with their health, and he was completely engaged until the very end, asking all kinds of great questions like "Does my cereal contain sugar? Is juice no better than soda pop, then?" When the movie was over, he decided (on his own) to give sugar a break for seven days. And he set to work. He stuck his head in the fridge and the pantry and identified what he could and couldn't eat. He made a grocery list. He begged his dad to take him grocery shopping for whole foods. And he lectured us all up and down about reading labels and making good choices.
At first, he was worried about the week that loomed ahead, as he wondered how we was going to complete avoid sugar when it seems to be in everything.
And then he had a lightbulb moment.
"Auntie Barb, I get it. If I want to avoid sugar, I have to learn to cook!"
And music to this nutritionist's ears. And so we did just that. Once he got home from the store, he chopped, grated, sautéed (with a little help) and made a great spaghetti sauce. He learned to poach eggs, and made his own trail mix. He figured out that he didn't have to rely on sugary cereals and granola bars for snacks, and why foods without labels were the best foods of all.
And he did this all himself. What a kid.
Sure, so the week is over now, and he's loosened his serious sugar restrictions. That's to be expected, and fair enough. But what he learned- the lifeskill of cooking- will stay with him forever, and my hope is that one busy day between school and lessons and bedtime, he stops to get a snack from the kitchen and reaches for a glass of water instead of a soda, or confidently picks up a knife and slices an orange.
It's baby steps for all of us, and there certainly is no magic pill that's going to make us live a long and healthy life. But there shouldn't be, either. Because cooking, with kids, with family, with yourself is about nourishment not only of the body, but the soul, too. And the fact of the matter is, whether you are ten or fifty years old, if you want to change your health, it has to start with real food, in the kitchen. One meal at a time.
CHECK OUT THE FED UP MOVIE ATfedupmovie.com