Weighing Up in 2015

Weighing Up in 2015

Globally, about 42 million children under the age of five, according the World Health Organisation (WHO) are overweight or obese. That’s just 2 million short of DOUBLE Australia’s current population.

Obesity in children and adolescents is a major concern. Not only does it prevail short-term health and social problems, but it also increases their risk of long-term health burdens like type 2 diabetes and heart diseases that may arise during childhood and continue with them into adulthood.

It is a condition were excess body fat accumulates when the energy intake from food and drink is greater than the energy expended through physical activity over an extended period of time.

These rates are commonly measured using the body mass index (BMI) weight-to-height ratio, which has been around since the 1840s. While for adults the number on the scale and the BMI ratio is no longer the best indicator of health as it doesn’t measure body fat percentage, it is still the only way we can and are measuring our kids’.

For 10 year-olds overweight is defined as a BMI of 19.84 or more for boys and 19.86 for girls, with obesity defined as a BMI of 24.00 or more for boys and 24.11 or more for girls.

The epidemic has been on an upward trajectory since the 1970s, when poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle became common place due to the availability of fast food.

Changes to family structure and dynamics began to take place, such as women beginning to work more and work hours in general began to increase. As a result, parents were busier and began spending less time with their kids. Coming home late meant parents couldn’t prepare homemade meals, so fast food did the trick. Time-poor parents replaced expensive fruit, veggies and nutrient dense meals for quick snacks and pre-prepared meals.

From 1985 to 1995, the prevalence of overweight and obese children among 5–17 year-olds tripled to 20% in boys and 21.5% in girls, which mean’t in 1995 1 in 5 children were considered overweight or obese.

According to the stats, unfortunately signs are emerging suggesting obesity is developing at younger ages as the years go by.

Between 1995-2008, Childhood obesity rates climbed even higher, indicating that 1 in 4 children between the ages of 5-17 years-old are overweight or obese.

Luckily since this survey conducted by Australian National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity, these figures have plateaued and in 2015 remain stable. However, this figure is still alarming and changes need to be made.

So, what can we do?

We need to educate kids and parents about:
– Portion sizes
– Meal planning
– ‘Always’ vs ‘sometimes’ foods
– A balanced diet
– What is actually in junk and fast foods and what it does to our bodies?
– How do healthy foods benefit our bodies and brains?
– How to cook healthy food from scratch
– The importance of eating meals as a family

Our current food system is doing our kids a disservice. We need to be strong as individuals, as families, as communities and as a nation to demand the transparency we want to see in our food system.

Fresh fruit and veg need to be more accessible and sold for cheaper than processed foods, we need to tax sugar, junk food companies and fast food stores and ban any unhealthy food advertising towards kids.

Schools need to hop on board and create community gardens, implement fun compulsory cooking classes and sell only healthy foods over the canteen counter.

A lot of children get their habits from home, which is why this is the MOST important place to start making positive changes. We should be creating a supportive environment at home for our kids, free of ‘sometimes’ unhealthy foods and packed full of colourful, healthy and fresh produce. Slice, dice, mix and bake these nutrient dense foods and create beautiful home cooked meals that can be shared by the whole family around the dining table.

This is what will pull those figures down, this is what we need to be doing so our kids can be set up for life with the right skills and the right habits for a healthy future.

A QUESTION FOR YOU: Where do you see our obesity rates and food system in 2025? I want to hear from you. COMMENT your thoughts below.

x Leah

8 Ways Parents Can Help Fight Childhood Obesity

8 Ways Parents Can Help Fight Childhood Obesity

Parents hold great responsibility over what their kids eat, what activities they participate in and how much time they spend in front of screens. They are the authoritative voice in the house, most of the time with the last say.

While childhood obesity can arise from many avenues such as bullying, the media, hormone imbalances, genetics, unhealthy eating and a lack of exercises, luckily most of these are reversible and can be combated through healthy lifestyle changes.

As parents, you can ensure your child engages with regular physical activity as well as healthy eating habits in and outside the home. If you recognise your child lacks energy, indulges in ‘sometimes’ foods most of the time, barely takes their eyes off screens and loathes at the thought of having to go outside, then these 8 tips are for you.

1. Know what food your kids are putting in their mouths. Make fresh and healthy homemade meals from scratch for them for dinner, pack them healthy lunches for school such as a salad sandwich, fruit and nut bar instead of giving them money to buy lunch at school. Stock your fridge and pantry with only healthy foods and don’t keep processed foods in the home at all, ‘Out of sight, out of mind.’

2. Encourage your kids to participate in sports. Lead by example and take them for walks with you on the weekend, go cycling around a park together, go swimming in summer or install a basketball hoop in your backyard.

3. Create a supportive family home environment. Tell aunties, uncles, grandparents, cousins and friends that you intend to start making healthier lifestyle changes for your child. No doubt they will hop on board. However, the grandparents might need some extra convincing that lollies and chips are not ‘treats’ and are in fact doing more harm to their grandson or granddaughter then they think.

4. Ensure they get at least 10 hours sleep. Not enough sleep is also a big factor contributing to your child’s risk of being overweight or obese. Their little bodies are still growing and need as much sleep as possible to function at their optimum. Not enough sleep combined with an unhealthy lifestyle is detrimental to your child’s health.

5. That being said, limit screen time. This includes TV, phones, computers, iPads, radios. Screens can interfere with your child’s sleeping patterns, impeding their brains from ‘switching off’ at night. Instead get them to read a book. Promote mindful eating and ban screens during mealtimes. This way your kids will learn to listen to their hunger cues better. Eating in front of the TV also applies, studies have shown that kids who eat while watching TV are more likely to overeat then those who are at the dining table.

6. Eat as a family together around the dining table during mealtimes. Studies have shown that kids who eat at home at least 5 nights a week performed better academically and were less likely to become overweight or obese or turn to alcohol or drugs later in life than their peers who ate out frequently. Eating as a family around a shared table also encourages communication and debate, enriching your child’s repertoire of skills and knowledge, all while encouraging slower eating too.

7. Focus on food rather than body size. If your child is overweight, they most likely know this. Be as supportive as you can and don’t tease or shame them about their size. Rather, focus on talking about food. Talk about the benefits of healthy foods like fruit and veggies. Ask them how does junk food make them feel? Encourage them to help you out in the kitchen cooking healthy meals with you and get them asking questions about veggies, how to prepare and cook them using different techniques. For more information on this, check out one of my previous posts.

8. Avoid using sugary sweets as rewards. While you may think you are being a kind parents giving them treats, you are in fact doing them a disservice. Why don’t you bake a healthy treat together? Like this healthy chocolate avocado mousse or these healthy cacao, coconut and date bliss balls. They still tick the sweet treat box, contain all natural and healthy ingredients while sparing your child all that unhealthy processed sugar and those impossible to pronounce ingredients. However, the biggest reward you could give your child is a big loving cuddle and kiss, this will last a lifetime in their eyes, as opposed to a chocolate bar that would last a only a few minutes in their mouths.

Leah x

Eating For Two? Think Again.

Eating For Two? Think Again.

If you’re an expecting mother unsure about what or how much to eat, this post in collaboration with FoodBaby is for you.

We realise the importance of having to eat enough when you’re eating for two- but that doesn’t mean you need to literally eat for two!

Pregnant women are recommended to eat a few extra servings in some particular food categories like grains, legumes and protein for that extra nutrition. Fats and sugars however, are suppose to be enjoyed in moderation, no matter if you are pregnant or not.

There are numerous negative side effects to eating too much during pregnancy. Overeating can increase your unborn child’s risk of being born overweight or obese and in turn increasing their chances of becoming overweight or obese as an adult and developing heart disease, certain cancers, type 2 diabetes and respiratory problems.

To ensure your baby get’s the best nutritional womb care, simply swap the processed junk food for fresh healthy food and ensure you don’t over do it on portion sizes.

Here are some healthy snack substitutions that are sure to satisfy any sort of craving you may have!

Craving something sweet?

fruit

  • Instead of sugary lollies, pick fruit. 
    In season now are delicious berries like strawberries and blueberries, which are packed with antioxidants. Also reach for papaya, mango, oranges or rockmelon. Fruit contains natural sugars which are good for you, but too much can be like having candy. Stick to the 2 fruit and 5 veg a day and you’ll be ok 😉
  • Instead of ice cream, go for blended frozen fruit.
    From mixed berries to mango to banana, there are so many flavour combinations you can make. Blend fruit in a blender and then freeze in a tray over night. The next day you will have your own healthy version of ice cream!

Craving something sour?

greek-yogurt-berries--fruit-sour-cravings

  • Instead of a sour snakes, go for sour fruit or greek yoghurt. 
    Go for acidic fruits like pineapple or oranges, even squeeze some lemon or lime on your favourite fruit – it doesn’t only add a sour element,  it actually brings the flavour out!

Craving something savoury?

bakedsweetpotato

  • Instead of hot chips or crisps, go for baked veggie chips or rice crackers.
    Baked kale chips, eggplant or sweet potato rings with a splash of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt does the trick perfectly! Enjoy rice crackers with some hummus or replace the crackers with celery, carrot, cucumber or capsicum sticks for an even healthier snack.

Happy healthy snacking!

Leah & Xixi x

This post is a collaboration with Foodbabyau to give you the best tips for healthy eating. Check our their original post here

It’s National Nutrition Week!

It’s National Nutrition Week!

Did you know it’s National Nutrition Week? Well incase you didn’t, from the 11th to the 17th of October, Australia is celebrating healthy foods and raising awareness about the importance of fresh fruit and veggies which contain a vital and rich source of nutrients for a balanced and healthy diet.

Unfortunately, Australians do not eat anywhere near the recommended serve of fruit and vegetables a day, which is two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables a day.

This can be attributed to the cheap processed foods which are readily available from supermarkets and fast foods outlets.

Let’s make sure out kids don’t grow up thinking eating this way is the norm. With national weeks like National Nutritional Week, we hope to educate Australian children about healthy foods, the numerous benefits they have for their bodies and brains and how to incorporate more of them in their diet.

Have a look at the revisited Healthy Eating Pyramid from Nutrition Australia to ensure you are getting a balance of food groups in your diet each day.

healthy-eating-pyramid

Evidence supports a diet rich in fruit and vegetables can greatly improve mood and brain function. For overweight or obese kids with poor nutritional habits, they experience low energy, low moods, a lack of motivation and cannot function at their optimum.

By eating a range of nutrient dense fresh fruit and vegetables incorporated in their breakfasts, lunches and dinners, they will not only experience better moods and see an increase in their self-esteem, but will be able to experience life as an average weight child – with higher energy levels. Their ability to focus, retain information and their overall cognitive function can be improved tenfold just by giving their bodies and brains the correct nutrients and energy it needs.

To celebrate, here are 10 brain and body boosting foods:

  1. Spinach
    spinach
    One of the best vegetable sources of Omega 3 fatty acids. Also a great source of antioxidants, B vitamins and folate.
  2. Carrots
    Carrots
    A rich source of beta carotene which supports mood and mental wellbeing. Cantaloupe, sweet potato and red capsicums also high in beta carotene.
  3. Broccoli
    broccoli
    Good source of Omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals such as chromium which helps the body and brain work productively.
  4. Chickpeas
    chickpeas
    Packed with B6 which supports mood and energy production. One serve (half a cup) of canned chickpeas contains about 40 per cent of the recommended daily dose of B6.
  5. Mushrooms
    mushrooms
    A great plant source of vitamin D which helps lift mood.
  6. Berries
    berries
    All berries are packed with mood-boosting vitamins and minerals, especially antioxidants and folate.
  7. Banana
    Banana
    The best fruit source of Vitamin B6.
  8. Avocado
    avocado
    Contain tryptophan which forms the feel-good hormone serotonin and low levels of tryptophan in the brain have been linked with depressive symptoms.
  9. Tomato
    tomatoes
    One of the richest sources of the antioxidant lycopene.
  10. Apricots
    sun-kissed-apricots
    High in betacarotene and B vitamins that improve mood.

    By Leah

Parents blind to overweight children.

Parents blind to overweight children.

More than 50% of parents of overweight or obese children in Australia believe their child is of normal weight and continue to think so as their kids pile on more kilos, according to researches from the University of Melbourne. These parents have what is called ‘Goldilocks syndrome,’ a term given to those who are in denial about their overweight children.

Parents’ weight perceptions are extremely important for preventing childhood obesity, however if parents are assuming their kids’ weight is just right when in fact it is well above average, we could have a huge problem.

So what’s going on? Are parents confused about what a healthy weight looks like or are they simply in denial? There are certainly a combination of contributing factors:

Average weight has changed. 

In the 60s, only 5% of Aussie kids were overweight or obese, now that figure has climbed to 25%. We are all heavier, and as a result our visual perception of what we think average weight is has shifted too. Interesting to note, the study found parents and kids perceived themselves to be thinner, more active and healthier than they really were. Of course parents don’t want to see their children in a bad light nor be blamed for their child’s weight, so it is understandable that they may feel a sense of guilt and hence can be in denial about the truth.

Overweight parents contribute to the problem.

According to Better Health, parents whom are overweight may be less concerned about their child being overweight, as they may see themselves and their kid as ‘normal’. It is not as easy to tell if a child is overweight as they tend to put on the kilos around their belly, which happens to be concealed most of the time. Overweight parents most likely live sedentary lifestyles and eat unhealthy foods. They act as bad role models for their kids, whom don’t know any better and which makes it very difficult for them to recognise they are living unhealthily, are overweight and increasing their risks of diabetes, heart diseases, cancers and other debilitating illnesses later in life.

Weight measures can be confusing. 

Using body mass index (BMI) to assess weigh results are more likely to label children as overweight than using a waist measure. Not only does the study suggest parents struggle to determine what a healthy weight is, but that a lot more research is needed to determine how best to define children’s weight status and importantly, how best to communicate this to parents and children. However, inconsistent weight measures aren’t the only factor contributing to childhood obesity.

Parents believe their kids will grow out of it. 

Unfortunately, research shows they most likely won’t grow out of it. If a kid is overweight, there is a strong chance they will become overweight as an adult. Parents should not be fooled. Why take a gamble on your child’s life?

Parents aren’t sure how to tackle the problem.

In one of my previous posts ‘To Tell or Not to Tell‘, I talk about the best way of approaching the topic of weight with your child. Avoiding the conversation and telling them out right they are chubby could possibly do more harm than good. Rather, speak to them about healthy foods, involve them in the cooking process, ask them questions to get them curious about fresh foods, how to prepare and cook them. Asking them questions about how junk food as opposed to fresh foods make them feel? Above all, parents need to be supportive, show unconditional love and provide positive reinforcement all the way.

By Leah

How to Get Fussy Kids Eating Better

How to Get Fussy Kids Eating Better

Whether you’re a top chef or regular home cook, everyone knows the toughest critics to impress are the ones standing no taller than our elbows. Feeding kids can be super tricky, but there are many ways to dodge the flying little trees of broccoli they throw your way.

Here are five tips to get fussy kids eating better.

  1. Provide a variety of foods.
    The more foods you expose your child to from a young age, the less they will develop fussy eating habits. If they love one food and you give it to them everyday, the more likely they are to refuse anything else that isn’t that food. Or it could go the other way, they could get sick of it and never want it again. Change their meals up with different ingredients to keep them excited about the food they eat. Swap broccoli for peas or carrots for sweet potato. Making a meal plan for the week is very useful and can save a lot of precious time.
  2. Change the texture.
    More so than flavour, texture plays a huge part in food appreciation. Whether it is crunchy, mushy, slimy or gritty, texture can dictate your kids choices of food. If your child doesn’t like boiled potatoes for example, instead mash them into mash potato, bake them into crispy wedges or grate them to make pan-fried fritters. Just because your child doesn’t like boiled potato, doesn’t mean they wont like crispy ones. There are so many ways to cook vegetables that change their texture completely, from steamed, baked, raw, mashed, boiled, stewed, pickled, shredded and more. Get creative.
  3. Use umami.
    Also known as the ‘fifth taste’ umami is the strongest flavour after salt, sweet, sour and bitter. It is what gives some foods that all rounded, satisfactory flavour. The best way to incorporate umami into your cooking is to use stock. Use chicken stock as the base to make a hearty and healing chicken soup or dashi stock to make a Japanese miso soup, or boil rice or vegetables in some beef stock. It adds a real depth of flavour loaded with nutrients extracted from animal bones, alternatively you can use vegetable stock too, which is also of course extremely high in micronutrients.
  4. Get them cooking with you. 
    It’s super rare your child will refuse to eat the food they took the time to make with you. Even if you give them small roles like washing the ingredients, stirring or mixing them in the pot or guiding them when cutting vegetables, a little involvement can get them interested in the process and can make them more adventurous eaters, tasting throughout the cooking process and trying new foods they wouldn’t have tried otherwise. See my older post ‘5 Reasons Why You Should Be Cooking With Your Kids’ for more on this.
  5. Lead by example.
    Kids look up to their parents and copy their actions, so your eating habits will directly affect your child’s. If you order takeaway often and barely cook fresh foods at home, it is very likely your child will grow up and adopt this lifestyle. Your food choices will determine whether your child reaches for a chocolate bar or apple, pack of chips or nut bar. It is important to keep in mind why we want out kids to eat better in the first place, to ensure they grow up to become healthy adults. We may lose some food battles but in the end it is worth the good food habits that come out of them .

    By Leah