Are Canadian parents dia-beating their children?

By: Ryan L.

Positive youth development is a concept that can be applied to and be affected by a vast array of contexts, situations and environments; it can be shaped (positively, or negatively) by friends, parents, teachers, neighbourhoods, social media, and individuals respective self-images among countless other contexts/situations. Therefore, wouldn’t it stand to reason that what we feed our children can also contribute to positive youth development? With prevalence rates of obesity and obesity-related conditions on the rise, is it a stretch to think that a younger, lazier and less healthy generation is on the rise due to the junk food culture they are exposed to?

As childhood obesity rates in Canada continue to soar, it leaves me to wonder what so many parents are feeding their children in order to contribute to such a dramatic climb in not only obesity rates, but also rates of disease among children. The Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) reports that the rate of diagnosis for Type 1 diabetics is increasing at approximately 3% per year; more starling however, is the fact that increasing amounts of children are being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. The CDA also reported that many young people are experiencing advanced symptoms of diabetes as well. As a student with Type 1 Diabetes, I would not wish this disease on anyone, especially a child; yet, parents continue to contribute to poor nutrition in their children despite the constant talk of increasing rates of childhood obesity in the media. This nutritional abuse (dia-beating if you will) contributes to the unhealthy physical development of children and youth who may in turn continue to do so to children of their own.

With these childhood obesity rates climbing, it is not astonishing to discover that the prevalence of diabetes among children is increasing as well (even Type 2, which is primarily an adult onset disorder). How are these children supposed to develop in a positive manner, when their parents are physically setting them up for failure by abusing their children (nutritionally speaking)? Though my parents were never rich, educated in nutrition or anything along those lines, they knew that my brother and I needed to eat the appropriate foods so that we could grow appropriately and they did so on a limited budget a lot of the time. It isn’t difficult to eat the appropriate foods; if a poor Type 1 Diabetic student such as myself can afford to keep myself nutritionally fueled, how come parents with steady jobs can’t feed their children appropriately? When the price of a bag of chips is higher than that of a bag of apples, perhaps it’s time you start analyzing what you buy your children. If parents do not begin to think about the food that they place in front of their children, they may be unwittingly contributing to the decreased self-image of their children as they are exposed to weight gain, decreased energy, lack of self-esteem as well as many other detrimental developmental effects through poor nutrition. Parents need to take the time to educate not only themselves but also their children in an attempt to fuel their positive development over some of the most crucial years of their lives.

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7 Responses to Are Canadian parents dia-beating their children?

  1. arie1976 says:

    I heartily agree with Ryan that healthy nutrition is an important pillar of a positive youth development. Physical activity / sport is another one; but a physically active lifestyle is only worth half as much if we let our children eat basically junk food. We are what we eat, as the saying goes, and it is true; considering that nutrition is something we put inside our bodies, and that our body is supposed to get everything it needs out of this nutrition to live, to thrive and to stay healthy, we – and parents even more – should take the time to think about what we want to eat, and what we want to be.

    Obesity with children is also an issue in Germany: 15% of all adolescents between ages 3 – 17 are overweight (source: Many people are aware that bad nutrition is one of several reasons for this. The good news is that there are many initiatives at work now at kindergartens and at schools to ensure that there`s healthy food available for the children in their breaks.

    Thank you Ryan for addressing this important subject!

    Andrea R.

  2. s30c5 says:

    I agree completely that parents are “dia-beating” our children. From working at day camps for many summers it was hard to see children eating such unhealthy lunches. However, it was very exciting to see children eating healthy lunches when they did. It also made teaching the children proper nutrition difficult when they would go eat such bad foods right after discussing topics on nutrition. Most children these days are very aware of what their daily servings are and what foods are good and what foods are bad for them. However, I think it is hard for children to make the choice of what they have for lunch when they do not buy the food.

    Our society is a very busy go go all the time. Therefore, making it hard for parents to let their children sit down and eat a meal. Parents who are educated also make the mistake of “dia-beating” our children too. Growing up my brother and I were constantly on the go with sports while our parents also had to work. It was easy for our parents to just grab us subway or something really quick in order to get us to our practices on time. Not saying they “dia-beated” us, as they were both aware of the benefits of eating healthy, but they knew the option was there and would sometimes take advantage of it.

    Parents in the end become responsible for what their child takes into their body, and therefore is responsible for any health condition their child may develop due to an unhealthy lifestyle. Like Ryan said Diabetes is on the rise and it is very important for our society to take the time to prepare meals. As a family, parents and children can use this time as a positive learning experience and time together. Parents can include the children in on what they will have to eat for the week and help them to prepare it. This way the children will learn how to prepare foods, how to cook, and have more interest in what they are eating.

    Along with parents, I also think it is important for the education systems (of all places) to have proper nutrition in their cafeteria. Going to school is where you are supposed to be educated and going to health class and then getting a poutine in the cafe right after means that our children are learning nothing.

    Great post Ryan!

    Caleigh R.

  3. philippejpd says:

    This interested me a lot Ryan, great way to look at how youth participate in sports not only physically but in a health manner as well. Placing more importance on the way youth eat would be a great study to see with a team-sport context. I as a student athlete would consider my diet as not too bad, but defiantly not healthy in all aspects. Some of my teammates have such bad eating habits. For example some only eat pizzas. Their fridge is full of frozen pizzas and after a long day of classes he goes and bakes the pizza and enjoys his supper. Another player on my team only eats sweets whenever we are on road trips, he is known to have a bag of candy with him at all times to snack on. And then to the other extreme there are players with diets that are written out and they eat properly every day. This player eats healthy in every way and does not drink any alcohol ever. Making both of these guys complete opposites in their diet and at the same time they are best friends on the team. Both extremely skilled soccer players and on top form of their university career it shocked me that there are not more apparent differences on their physical health. But then again the main problem with bad eating habits is that the effects are not instant. You do not see the immediate impact that eating unhealthy does to your body before it is too late which is a main factor why people can easily let it slide “just this one time” and eat unhealthy.
    Having a good diet is one of the most important aspects of youth development because having to fight obesity as a child becomes extremely difficult when you get older because you are already lots of steps behind a healthy diet. Which makes it very difficult to want to change how you eat and prepare your food in a healthy manner.
    As a kid my parents always tried to place a good diet in my life and make sure I eat enough of the right food to give me the knowledge of how to eat correctly and at the right times. I thank them very much for providing me with those skills, as I plan to put a lot of focus on providing those developmental skills to my kids. Knowing is one thing, but doing is another and without having an instant punishment of eating unhealthy it limits the amount of people who actually take the time to focus on healthy eating.
    Is the world able to change the direction of this increase in obesity, to provide generations to come a greater understanding of healthy eating by providing them with the knowledge of how to eat healthy. For our kids and grand kids lets hope that healthy eating habits is a great importance in the generation to come to provide them with the best lifestyle they can possibly have.

  4. brendanlane2 says:

    To start, I completely agree with the points you are making here. Obesity and the related health risks (heart disease, diabetes, stroke, etc.) are a very serious problem in recent times, particularly in youth. It is something that needs to be addressed, and parents should understand their role in the nutrition of their children. There are a few other factors that I think play into this, though.

    As Caleigh said, we live in a very fast-paced world now. The amount of stay-at-home-parents is far lower than ever before, and in families with both parents working, they may find it hard to find the time to prepare full, proper meals on their own. As well, society is just way more okay with obesity than it’s ever been before. There is less societal pressure to be healthy and in shape, so parents feel less pressured to make healthy choices in regards to family nutrition. While none of these justify the behaviour in any way, they are at least worth keeping in mind when discussing how and why parents need to take responsibility for the health of their children. I don’t think it’s a conscious choice on the part of the parent to be less healthy, just one they never truly think through.

  5. t628i says:

    I’m not sure that living in a fast paced environment is enough of an excuse, I do know that it is a contributing factor, however, if people want to have children, I believe that they should also shoulder the responsibility of healthy eating habits. I understand that some people don’t have the aptitude, knowledge, or time to cook, but there are dozens of kinds of fruits and vegetables that are quick, easy, delicious and nutritious snacks for young children. I find very few (if any) realistic excuses for it, especially when obesity rates climb as high as 15% as Andrea mentioned is the case in her country.
    Ryan L.

  6. f505f says:

    Great Blog.
    I think children do need to be responsible for their eating habits and know the effects on what unhealthy eating can do to their bodies.
    I think parents should to foster healthy eating to their child, when he or she is a baby. Providing only healthy choices as long as possible until he or she reaches school and is more exposed of unhealthy foods. This could eventually help the child in not liking or wanting unhealthy foods at all. I had friends in school that were raise this way and they always brought very healthy foods and inspire other kids to eat this way. When a child is use to eating healthy their taste buds develop very different and become stronger to high sugary or saturated fats foods.
    My brother who is now 14, recently changed his eating habits from pop everyday and chips to making healthy choice because of the extra weight he was carrying. He never really cared about his weight or appearance until reaching high school. So the effects of unhealthy eating habits can haunt a child in later development, through not having self esteem in oneself.

  7. jbuote says:

    Great topic choice Ryan.
    This is a rising issue all across North America and the action hasn’t been taken that is neccesary to stop these rates of obesity from increasing. This somewhat ties into the blog that i wrote about children being sedentary these days and watching excessive amounts of television and not participating in enough physical activity.
    Some parents just seem to sit back and watch this happen to their children. The parents these days do not educate their children about what foods are healthy and what food they should stay away from. This continues to lead to obesity and in many cases to diabetes and this is mainly because of the lack of attention and caring of the children from the parents.
    This is a great post and I hope that as we evolve as a society we will learn to educate and prevent these things like obesity and diabetes from happening to these children.
    -Jamie B

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