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My Dad, The Dietitian: Growing Up With a Food Expert as a Parent

It is 5 AM on a Monday morning and I am awakened by a faint "whoosh whoosh" sound coming from the next room. This is a typical sound early in the morning at my parent's house during the week. They are both up for their morning workouts, my mom on the elliptical and my dad warming up for his usual morning run. My dad's morning runs have been a consistency for as long as I can remember. Rain, sleet, snow, or some other crazy Midwest weather-- didn't matter, my dad would go out for at least a 3-mile run.

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When my brother and I were little we thought it was normal for parents to be up exercising in the mornings. But we learned quickly when we both started grade school this was not the case. Most of our friends' parents were running out the door trying not to be late for work and in the process, grabbing a cup of coffee and a doughnut for their breakfast. This never happened in our family. When you have a dad as a dietitian you learn early on that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Breakfast was just another family meal around the kitchen table, a bowl of cereal with milk and a glass of orange juice was the staple meal.

Besides the difference in breakfast from my family to others, I never thought we were much different then my friend's families until high school. This was when I realized that my family would probably be considered abnormal compared to most American families. We still sat down for family dinners which always included a vegetable and a salad, there was rarely a dessert, and most of the time my brother and I still had skim milk to drink. Most of my friends were eating out at restaurants at least two or three nights a week. If my brother or I got home late from a sports practice, my mom would have our meals in the fridge waiting for us instead of just making a quick run through some fast food joint.

I never felt deprived or restricted from any foods growing up. I am sure most people would think since my dad is a dietitian we would never had fast food or sweets. But that wasn't the case. Our family still ate at McDonalds on occasion, Friday night was usually pizza or sub sandwiches, and we had junk foods in our house although not as much as most families I knew. The difference between my family's "unhealthy foods" and most of my friends was how often we ate them. It was all about moderation and balancing it out with daily activity.

I think my upbringing has affected my health habits as an adult. I guess the most obvious would be that I became a dietitian like my dad. He was supportive of my decision but made sure I understand just how difficult it is to get people to eat right and live a healthy life. I have continued many of the habits that my parents taught me as a kid, I try to add vegetables to my meal, exercise daily, and eat junk food in moderation. I don't think I have it any easier then other people to maintain a healthy lifestyle because of my childhood. I still find it difficult to get up some mornings and workout or have an apple instead of a slice of cake. But when I think of my parents still getting up early each morning to work out, it gets me motivated. I don't want to have to tell people my parents are in better shape then I am. Although I will admit that my dad can still kick my butt in running.

Grete R. Hornstrom is a Clinical Dietitian who is currently specializing in pediatric care. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Physical Education with a concentration in Exercise Science from Kent State University, a Master of Arts in Wellness Management from Ball State University, and a Master of Science in Dietetics from Ball State University. She has worked with overweight children and adults, recreational and elite athletes, chronically ill children, and every day people on developing nutrition plans and healthy lifestyle changes. In addition she has worked with recreational teams, high school teams, and college teams educating them on the importance of nutrition and performance. She has completed one marathon and three half marathons in the last two years. Her newest sport of choice is cycling.


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