It's a stressful situation familiar to so many parents.
Between managing a career (or doing the work of a stay-at-home parent), picking up and dropping off kids from school and activities, keeping the house in some semblance of order, trying to have quality family time, and just plain keeping everyone alive, when and how exactly are you supposed to cook nutritious, wholesome meals for your children? And if you have a lower income, how are you supposed to afford it?
So Yoni Freedhoff, an Ottawa family doctor and weight specialist, touched on a nerve when he posted a blog this week calling on parents to prepare more home-cooked meals for their families. The blog, titled "You'll Gladly Die For Your Children; Why Won't You Cook For Them" has been shared 200 times since Freedhoff posted it on Facebook Tuesday morning.
"It's my firm belief in the incredible and powerful love of parents for their children that regularly leads me to scratch my head and wonder: Why it is that while most every parent would happily die for their children, it's an increasingly rare parent who will cook for them?" Freedhoff wrote.
"I think the real reason parents who would die for their children are comfortable feeding them from boxes and drive-thrus isn't due to a lack of love or concern. It's because society has been so firmly and conclusively duped into believing that doing so is both safe and healthful that it has become our new normal."
"At the end of the day, it's simply not about time," he added, pointing to a 2012 report that Americans watch 34 hours of television a week and spend another eight on the internet.
"... sure sounds like time's something of which we actually have plenty," Freedhoff wrote.
A mixed response
Freedhoff's post didn't sit well with some parents, who cited time, increased pressure, gender parity (or lack thereof), and economics as reasons why cooking from scratch isn't always possible.
Because we still haven't achieved gender parity. Maybe after working all day, long commutes, maybe even 2 jobs just to keep a roof over their heads, mothers (who still do most of the grocery shopping, cooking, etc) are EXHAUSTED.— Amanda Ross-White (@AmandaRossWhite) December 5, 2017
"Sure, we could all try harder/do better/cut some more corners... but don't hurt poor people who eat from cheap fast resources because their double job lifestyle prohibits them cooking from scratch," one woman wrote in response to Freedhoff's Facebook post.
"We live in a world where there is immense pressure for (women specifically but men too) to 'lean in' and be leaders in the workplace, to volunteer for causes, to be thoughtful citizens, neighbors and friends, to have a Pinterest-worthy home, to be loving to their partner, to be fit and healthy, to meal plan and cook and eat healthily, to be present with their children, to take their kids to an array of activities...etc etc etc. It's. All. Too. Much.," another woman wrote.
"That's nice, but I'm expected to work til 6. I work an hour from home. Time is a factor here and anybody who says it isn't is very privileged," wrote another.
"It's only a matter of time before someone pitches up here and tells us all to buy a slow cooker or make soup from fish heads 3wks in advance or something...," another woman wrote.
Excellent. We need nothing short of a revolution to turn this ship around at this point. Stricter regulations re. food advertising to children (and their harried parents). We need to be teaching childen (and adults) to cook again - in schools, communities and our homes.— Shannon Sponagle (@ShannonSponagle) December 5, 2017
Others were supportive of Freedhoff's post, and said finding time to cook is often just a matter of planning.
"I cook every day; we plan ahead for the week and prep the night before," one woman wrote on Facebook.
"Meals don't have to be complicated or time consuming to be tasty and nutritious. I'm a single mom with two young kids. Not gonna lie, I use 'convenience' foods sometimes, but I pair with healthy sides... I also try to make bigger batches to freeze for later," another woman wrote.
So many good points. I definitely recognize that I lack in cooking skills, making it difficult not only to prepare nutritious meals, but often just to come up with healthy options that don't taste bland and horrible. Something I'm working on so my children will have those skills.— Melissa Jirovec (@OutoftheRut_MJ) December 5, 2017
"It's all about what you prioritize. I menu plan a week in advance in conjunction with the flyers from stores. I buy in bulk and freeze. Yesterday I froze 6 pounds of homemade chicken 'nuggets' that cost me $8.50 for the ingredients. Talk about cheaper and healthier than processed," wrote another.
Children are the biggest consumers of ultra-processed foods
Freedhoff originally published the post in 2013 in U.S.News and World Report, but wrote that he thought it was worth posting it again in light of research released Dec. 5 from the Heart and Stroke Foundation that found children are the biggest consumers of ultra-processed foods.
"Most troubling is that young people get more than half their calories from ultra-processed foods — more than any other age group," The Heart and Stroke Foundation wrote in a news release, adding that unhealthy diets are now the leading risk factor for death in Canada.
Ultra-processed foods include pre-prepared ready-to-eat meals, sugary drinks, fatty, sugary or salty snacks, candy, and sweetened cereals, the foundation wrote. And the products that provide the most calories in our diets are "pre-prepared, ready-to-eat dishes" such as pizza, burgers, sandwiches and frozen dishes, followed by packaged breads and sweetened drinks, the foundation found.
"Canadians should eat and cook at home as often as possible and in the company of others," the foundation wrote.
But, as many parents noted in response to Freedhoff's post, that's often easier said than done.
"I only work 12 hours a week outside the home right now, and I don't know how families do it when both parents have to work full-time," one woman wrote on Facebook.
"Prepackaged food that is actually healthy is hard to find and $$$. It's hard for families to eat good food!"
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