Nutritional eating and its effects on obesity

Jamie Oliver, well known British born chef, is probably best known as ‘the Naked Chef’.  Amongst his many achievements, Jamie has campaigned against the use of processed foods in national schools in Britain.  He continually strives to improve unhealthy diets and poor cooking habits in the United Kingdom as well as the United States.

In 2005, he initiated a campaign called “Feed Me Better” in order to sway British schoolchildren towards eating healthy foods and cutting out junk food.  He encourages changes in nutrition which is easier to instill in young children.

With obesity in children on the increase, we need to encourage our children to take up a healthy way of eating resulting in a better lifestyle.  It is estimated that 1 in 5 South African children is either overweight or obese, with 20% of children under the age of six being overweight. This is mainly due to poor diet and lack of exercise.

As parents we underestimate the influence that we have on these problems.  Complaining about our own weight and requirement to go on diet, promotes a negative feeling towards eating for our child.  Rather focus on fitness than on fat.  Encourage healthy snacking by ensuring the availability of snacks such as raisins, nuts, yoghurt etc. Healthy snacking is better than becoming hungry and seeking ‘junk’ food.

Negative facts:

  1. Eating in front of the television.  Children become distracted and are unaware of the ‘full’ feeling.
  2. Bribing children to eat their vegetables by encouraging a treat afterwards.  This creates a negative attitude towards vegetables.
  3. Never skip breakfast.  Ensure that breakfast is a nutritious and energy-sustaining meal.  It has been proven that children who partake in breakfast have a much higher concentration level.
  4. Avoid sweetened and fizzy drinks.  Fruit juice also needs to be monitored as many of these are high in sugar.
  5. Avoid encouraging, “Just have one more spoonful”. The child will learn to doubt their instincts and ignore their body message that they are sufficiently full which may lead to later problems.

Positive facts:

  1. Encourage children to drink water. Parents often say ‘my child does not like water’. The younger you start with water the better.
  2. Encourage exercise.  This will assist with better sleep patterns.  Active children are more likely to handle physical as well as emotional challenges.  Exercise improves metabolism which assists with weight maintenance.  Toddlers require at least 90 minutes of active play per day while pre-schoolers need 2 hours.  This must be structured and unstructured active play.
  3. If you have a garden, convert a small part into a veggie or herb garden.  It is exciting to gather home grown produce which have been grown the ‘health’ way.
  4. Allow occasional sweets.  To withhold these altogether can result in hording or a feeling of being deprived.

Encourage healthy eating as it results in a healthy body and a healthy mind.  By encouraging good eat habits from a young age; these habits will be carried throughout life.

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