By Latisha Lawson, Champion Mom, Sacramento, CA
Today is Family Day in California, and First Lady Maria Shriver has asked families to celebrate by sitting down and sharing a meal together. She’s a mom, and she gets it. Moms know that many important life lessons are learned at the dinner table.
My family’s dinner table is the centerpiece of our home. Eating together is as much about connecting with my kids as it is about teaching them healthy habits that will last a lifetime. Meal time is my chance to learn about their day and share about mine – all over delicious, nutritious food.
Of course, it isn’t always easy. Sometimes things that are good for kids are things they don’t want to eat. But I’ve learned that when kids help choose and cook food, they are more likely to eat it. Younger ones can tear lettuce for salads or rinse fruits and vegetables, and my older kids help me chop and slice.
My kids are also more likely to eat healthy foods when they see my husband and I eat them. That’s why I make a point of eating all kinds of fruits and vegetables. In my house we’ve learned that what we eat affects our health, so every bite counts.
I know all too well what can happen if you don’t take care of yourself and your family – my father died from diabetes at the age of 33. While it’s hard to get loved ones to make healthy choices, it’s much harder to watch them deal with the consequences.
Nothing is more important than the health of my family, and I am doing everything I can to prevent this disease from impacting my children. Even small steps – like having a healthy family dinner at home – can lead to big health improvements. So I changed the way I prepare and serve my family’s food. I make it easy for my kids to snack on fruits and vegetables and to drink plenty of water. In fact, sugary drinks aren’t allowed.
Working multiple jobs in a tough economy, I know how hard it is to make ends meet, keep my kids active and put healthy food on the table. But I have the power to make healthy choices for my family.
With the rising prices on just about everything these days, I have learned that eating healthy doesn’t have to cost a lot. You just need to be resourceful. I make a shopping list whenever I go to the store so I don’t buy things we don’t need, and I visit my local farmer’s market to buy produce in season when it costs less.
Lots of families like mine are living on a tight budget and facing issues like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer that are linked to the growing obesity epidemic in California. I believe everyone deserves a healthier future, so I am speaking up for healthy changes in my community. I even helped bring a farmer’s market to a neighborhood where there were few places to buy produce, and too many places to buy unhealthy foods. That success inspired me to think about the future. My vision includes communities where sugary drinks aren’t allowed in schools, where schools provide kids with free drinking water and a place where kids have safe places to play.
I see a future filled with healthy communities where it’s easy for kids and moms to make healthy choices, and where eating more fruits and vegetables and being more physically active will help kids concentrate and do better in school, feel good about themselves, grow and develop strong bodies and live longer, healthier lives. I think that’s something every mom wants for her children. But moms need the support and encouragement of other moms who are overcoming challenges, especially when times are tough.
That’s why I’m thankful for the First Lady’s support of Family Day and this opportunity to share my story with you. If I can do it, you can do it.
Please join the First Lady Maria Shriver, me and millions of other moms to celebrate Family Day. Healthy change is a family affair so gather your family together tonight. Sit down with your children and connect. Share a healthy meal. You’ll be glad you did.
Latisha Lawson lives in Sacramento with her husband and three children. As a Champion Mom with the Network for a Healthy California, she empowers other moms to be Champions for Change.