DIET FOR OUR YOUNG ONE’S
Eating a balanced diet every day is important in every life stage, but an additional consideration for children is that the eating habits they develop at an early age will carry with them throughout their life span. Children who eat a balanced diet are less likely to develop certain diseases/conditions and will lessen their predisposition to some diseases as an adult. Healthy eating is important for the proper formation of bones, teeth, muscle and a healthy heart. Diet can affect growth and development in small children as well as teens.
Childhood obesity is a growing problem in India as well as US. A balanced diet can help children avoid this trend and future health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
Health Effects of Childhood Obesity
Immediate health effects:
Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
Obese adolescents are more likely to have prediabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes.
Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.
Long-term health effects:
Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. One study showed that children who became obese as early as age 2 were more likely to be obese as adults.
Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases.
The dietary and physical activity behaviors of children and adolescents are influenced by many sectors of society, including families, communities, schools, child care settings, medical care providers, faith-based institutions, government agencies, the media, and the food and beverage industries and entertainment industries.
Schools play a particularly critical role by establishing a safe and supportive environment with policies and practices that support healthy behaviours. Schools also provide opportunities for students to learn about and practice healthy eating and physical activity behaviours.
What is a Healthy Diet for children?
A balanced diet means a diet that has food items from all the major food groups. There are five major food groups which are grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy and meat and meat alternatives. A balanced diet strikes a balance amongst these five food groups and gives the body the right amount of nutrients that it needs for overall good health.
Eating a balanced diet is not about having one good meal. It is about creating healthy eating habits for a child and maintaining those habits over a period of time and on into adulthood.
A healthy diet is an essential factor in a child’s growth and development. Between age 1 and adolescence, children grow an average of 2 1/2 inches per year, and growing bones and muscles require proper nutrition to reach their full growth potential.
Healthy and nutritious diet plays an important role in the development of brain and enhancing learning. There are certain foods that can boost brain function and development like dairy products, fresh fruits, leafy green vegetables, fish, nuts and lean meats. Consistent water intake also enhances a child’s energy and attentiveness.
Developing Healthy Habits
Children are often picky eaters, but there are some ways adults can help them develop healthy, balanced eating habits. Try to provide a variety of nutritious food at mealtimes and for snacks, and limit the amount of treats available to children. Set a good example by eating healthy yourself, eat meals as a family and involve children in food choices and preparation.