Friday, 25 May 2012

Good food education could reduce the need for childhood slimming

There are a lot of pressures on parents today. Society is much more consumer-based than it has been in any previous generation, and sensible parenting is a challenge at the best of times. The availability of leisure activities, including play stations, DVDs, computer games and other indoor toys means that children can entertain themselves without leaving the house. Worries about child safety, combined with fitting activities into a busy schedule result in more children travelling by car.
Are children also eating less well? Twenty years ago, we didn't have a lot of the research we have today on which foods to eat and how they react inside your body, so it's possible that the kids of the 1970s and 1980s who drank lots of fizzy drinks, ate largely white bread and processed food such as fish fingers, were no better off nutritionally than children are today. Parents are bombarded with messages from both sides; information in doctors' surgeries and in newspapers and magazines warns of the dangers of a bad diet, and gives nutritional advice whilst television adverts and food promotions encourage children to pester their parents for foods that aren't good for them.
To combat this problem, you need to be a strong-willed parent, who can educate their child about nutrition whilst preparing healthy balanced meals. This is a lot more difficult than it sounds, particularly where both parents are working, mealtimes are rushed or not taken together at all, and a meal at a fast food restaurant is a treat. Children do learn about food that's good for them when they're at school, but they need this to be balanced by seeing it in practice at home.
Here are some tips for easy food education:
- Make sure your child eats a healthy breakfast to give them energy for the day ahead
- Make sure there is plenty of fruit and healthy snacks in the house. Don't buy crisps and biscuits
- Encourage your child to help with meal preparation so that they learn how to cook healthily
- If your child has packed lunches, make sure they are healthy, and full of foods they can enjoy
- Don't bribe your child with sweets or chocolate. Use different things for treats, such as a play at the park
There are lots of resources available to help you give your child a healthy eating plan and good eating habits. If they take these onto adult life, there will be no need for them to worry about slimming when they're older.

Can food education affect your diet?

Many nutritionists and other medical professionals believe that food education is key to improving our diet.
Fifty years ago, obesity and rising incidences of heart disease and diabetes weren't things that the medical profession worried about, but today, these issues are of prime concern. The availability of fast foods, processed foods and products that are high in salt and sugar have made diet a key area of public health. Governments are trying to stop us perpetuating the problem by educating children on healthy eating, so that they grow up with an appreciation of what's good and bad for them, and pass it on to their own children.
By its nature, this is a long-term project and we need to widen our education net to include the current generation of new parents, so that they are not only educating their children, but following healthy eating patterns themselves, reducing their own risks of diet-influenced disease.
It's with children, though, that the primary concern lies. This is partly because educating them will have long-term benefits, but mainly because the frightening statistics coming from the medical profession show that the children of this generation are being diagnosed with diseases that were previously only found in adults. For example, a national survey carried out in 2000 found that the majority of children are eating more fat, salt and sugar than the recommended adult limit.
Whilst it is important to have food education in schools, it is increasingly the case that schools do not have the time or resources to teach “cookery” or to look in-depth at food and the problems that a bad diet can cause. Schools also have no control over what parents give their children to eat, or what they watch on television, which is when children are targeted by advertising for a wide variety of unhealthy foods. A 2001 report by Sustain, the Alliance for better food and farming suggested that between 95-99% of all children's food advertisements were for products that contained high levels of fat, salt and sugar. In addition, parents are sucked in by foodstuffs that promise sports equipment for schools if enough tokens are collected. This often means an increase in the purchase of crisps or sweets, which leads many to think this is a cynical marketing scheme.
If you can change your diet, adopting a healthier lifestyle, reducing your intake of those things that are harmful to you and seeing the benefits of a healthier body and increased energy, you will have experienced the benefits of food education and will be in a great position to pass your knowledge onto the next generation.
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