The future of our health — well-being for kids

After presenting to a group of middle school students on the topic of nutrition recently, I got a taste of what it would be like to be a parent — tough.

After presenting to a group of middle school students on the topic of nutrition recently, I got a taste of what it would be like to be a parent — tough.

Chips, pop, chocolate bars, pizza … perogies… what else? Energy drinks, sugar infused yogurts, macaroni and cheese.

What are the effects we should expect of consuming these foods loaded with preservatives, colourants, sugars, and excess sodium? I took a look at the sugar content of a young girl’s Strawberry Milk — 36 grams of sugar. That’s more than the typical 25 grams in a can of soda.

This is the future of our health. This is the future of our children’s well-being.

Are we killing our kids? What are the implications and what do we do about it?

Statistics Canada shows results from a 2007-2009 survey showcasing that a quarter of children and youth are now overweight or obese. Sedentary behaviour on the rise, coinciding with unhealthier choices in foods are contributing factors to this shift.

The influx of sugar shows a strong correlation with not only mood swings and emotional behaviour but also symptoms of ADHD in our children.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show in their data from a National Health and Nutrition Examination survey that the consumption of added sugars is associated with the rise of “cardiovascular disease risk amongst adolescents, including adverse cholesterol concentrations.”

Diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke are other risk factors associated with these junk food infused diets.

On a more immediate note self-esteem and confidence are at stake including eating disorders and depression — not something to take lightly.

So where do we go from here?

I’ve worked with many families and it’s not easy getting the kids on board always. They have to want it, too. But kids are smart and taking the approach of educating them is important. There’s no need to always be the parent, forcing health food on the kids. Ask them what they like and do your best to healthify it.

Some of the tips I’ve learned along the way from working with parents are:

— Get them involved and educated. Look up ingredients for yourself with some of their fave junk foods.

— Get them in the kitchen with you. Go on the journey together.

— Find alternative ingredients. They want pizza? Try a gluten-free crust and fresh ingredients — see what they think. They like chocolate pudding. Make chocolate avocado pudding. They like chicken nuggets … make your own with fresh spices.

— Find out what they like and try new foods. Baked yams? Cucumbers? Hummus? Guacamole? What’s their favourite vegetable? Make sure they are getting some daily.

— Kids love smoothies. Put some greens in there and call it a green monster smoothie (age dependent).

— Stay positive about the journey and try new approaches. But bottom line — stick with it! This is an ongoing journey.

We’re all in this together and need support from schools, parents, relatives, friends and, of course, the kids! The more collectively we come together, the greater the impact.

Communicate to the people within your circles your values on making positive changes and ask them to be a support. The future depends on it.

Kristin Fraser, BSc, is a holistic nutritionist and local freelance writer. Her column appears every second Thursday. She can be reached at kristin@somethingtochewon.ca.

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