Children aren’t born with the knowledge of which foods are healthy, unless parents teach it to them. Food choices are first learned at home, so parents need to educate themselves about proper nutrition, even before having children.
Shouldn’t it be a prerequisite of prenatal classes to educate these soon-to-be parents about proper nutrition?
Most parents go to great lengths to keep their children safe, teaching them to look both ways before crossing the road, telling them to stay away from the stove, and not to talk with strangers. So why aren’t parents telling their children that fast foods are a big danger to their well-being? Why aren’t fast foods labeled like cigarettes are? Is sugar, salt and fat not as addicting and dangerous?
As British chef and food advocate Jamie Oliver explains, our food culture has changed so drastically over the last 30 years, that a majority of young children of today do not know what fresh, whole food is. They would more easily recognize the “big M” logo rather than their own local supermarket logo.
In a recent study conducted by the National Cancer Institute, it was found that nearly half of the calories consumed by the average 2 to 18 year old, come from junk food sources, with an average of 2200 calories per day (more than the recommended for an adult woman.
These top five food categories are made up mainly of soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts like ice cream, grain desserts like cookies and cakes, and pizza (when your child last took part in a birthday party, chances are they were given the all-time favourite: cheese pizza). All of these items primarily include sugar and fructose, salt and bad fats – the main causes for a lowered immune system, which in turn allow for common child ailments such as ear infections, sore throats and colds, eczema, lack of concentration, and other “new found ailments” such as ADHD and various allergies.
Another study from British researchers recently showed that those children who often consumed a diet high in processed foods at age 3, had much lower IQ scores and lack of concentration at age 8-1/2. This study also revealed how quickly children learn to prefer a junk-food diet.
Parents need to learn not to be afraid to say “NO” to a child. Get back in the kitchen, select fresh fruits and veggies and wholesome (preferably organic) proteins, and involve children in the kitchen – from a very young age.
We have become a society that uses the microwave as a regular, daily appliance, rather than the stove and oven. By age six, our children should be very knowledgeable about which foods are good choices as snacks. And when offered a drink, refuse juice and opt for water.
By spending more time together discussing nutrition with children, cooking at home, and eating together, parents will be ensuring a healthier future for their children, free from many common ailments – especially through the most crucial developmental years.
So turn the television off, put some music on, and prepare your meals ahead of time, WITH your children assisting, or at least, watching. It’s really not that complicated.
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Jacklyn Fernandez is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and regular columnist for Silver and Gold Magazine's health-focused editorial.