The nursery is decorated, the tiny clothes are washed and folded, the hospital bag is packed, and you’re eager to begin your life with your newest family member. Even while our child is still in the womb, we whisper our promises of love, protection, and guidance to our expectant bundle of joy. The early years are full of fun and growth. We encourage them to take their first steps, speak their first words, master using a spoon to feed themselves, and then there’s the inevitable potty training.

Our influence on their lives is enormous, shaping the person who they are to become, instilling values and a strong sense of right and wrong. Yes, parenting is an amazing thing and a great responsibility. Between parents and teachers, we influence our children in many way, and in a couple of decades, this tiny person will be an adult with a character compiled of a spattering of all those who contributed to their development along with a chunk of their own individuality. From the first few words and tentative steps, they have now accumulated an immense amount of social skills and knowledge that will hopefully serve them well in the adult world.

But wait! Have we missed something?

Well, judging by the statistics produced by the CDC, it appears many of us have indeed made a worrying oversight: 1 in 5 of our children between 2 and 19 years-old are considered obese. When we consider that education is to teach us how to understand and participate in the world around us, it is peculiar that we don’t discuss the very thing that gives us life, health, and sustenance: FOOD! Unless our kids are involved in athletics, food is not a subject we discuss much throughout our young lives. We should be talking about what it is, what it does to us, how it makes us feel, and especially how it affects our health and happiness – the very key fundamental building block to a happy and healthy life.

Once grown,How much of the responsibility of our children’s eating habits once they reach adulthood are ours as parents?

Our adult children’s eating habits are a direct result of how we parented them in their youth and the habits we established. If we thought our children’s health and wellness were under direct threat, I am sure there is nothing we wouldn’t do to protect them from that threat, yet when we give our children their first can of soda we are pretty much introducing them to one of the most harmful substances in our food chain…sugar!

When we eat fast food like pizza, burgers, fries, tacos, etc. over home-cooked and balanced meals, we are depriving them of essential nutrients and vitamins critical to their healthy growth. When we show them that sitting while watching TV or browsing the internet or playing computer games is the way to pass time, then we are depriving them of the physical activity a young body needs to maintain health and vigor as well as processing energy in a healthy and active way.

We live in an age where commercials and ads deliberately target children with junk food products that are designed for them but have little to no benefit to their health. Energy drinks and high sugar sodas can deliver more than 3 times the daily recommended sugar consumption in just one can. Even fruit juices that we think are a healthy alternative can contain more sugar than a candy bar. But more importantly, if we do not lead by example and show our children that eating healthy balanced meals is normal, then by default we are teaching them that eating healthy balanced meals is abnormal. In other words, we are directly responsible for instilling eating habits in our children that they will carry into their adult lives and in turn, pass on to their children. As parents, we have to ask ourselves whose responsibility it is to stop this cycle. My response to that is a no brainer.