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

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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

Meat Free Monday – Join the Revolution!

Meat Free Monday – Join the Revolution!

Ever heard of Meat Free Monday? Well, if not, now you have. It began 10 years ago after a 2006 study conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations found 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions was due to the global livestock industry. That’s more than the whole transport sector combined.

Besides being an environmentally friendly initiative, it is also a healthy initiative.

According to a Harvard University study, eating a diet high in red and processed meat has been found to increase the our risk of type 2 diabetes and being overweight and obese. Swapping saturated fat-rich foods such as meat and full-fat dairy with foods rich in polyunsaturated fat like vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, reduces one’s risk of heart disease by 19%.

According to the revisited healthy eating pyramid, we should be eating way less meat than we currently are.  The new pyramid tackles this by ensuring we eat meat in moderation while the majority of our meals should consist of plant based foods.

Australians currently allocate 40% of their food expenditure on meat, eating approximately 120kg each year, that’s nine times the recommended weekly amount! The same research paper found Australians are not only eating more meat every year, we are opting for poor quality, processed meats. Instead, 70% of what we eat should be vegetables, legumes and grains. These are the most nutrient dense foods and should be our main source of carbohydrates and fibre in our diet.

A serve of meat constitutes 65-100g of cooked meat, which is the size and thickness of your palm. Since you will be cutting down on the amount of meat you eat each week, opt for good quality meat, such as from the butcher. Trust me, you will taste the difference.

You don’t have to be a vegetarian to join in on Meat-free Mondays, it’s for everyone. In fact, you would be surprised how tasty a meal can be just made from vegetables! Don’t be afraid to make the sacrifice, besides, animals have had no choice but to sacrifice their lives for ours. So on Mondays, sacrifice yourself for animals for a change!

Here are a few recipes to get you started:
Hearty Chickpea, Pumpkin and Coconut Curry from Meat Free Mondays
 Lentil Bolognese from Kids Spot
Spinach and Feta Pie from Kids Spot
Vegetarian Lasagne from Taste.com

By Leah

5 Reasons Why You Should Be Cooking With Your Kids

5 Reasons Why You Should Be Cooking With Your Kids

Cooking is such an important life skill. It’s a basic skill and you don’t need to be a chef to do it. A few ingredients can turn into a healthy tasty meal for the family. Getting kids involved in the process is not only educational but a fun and engaging exercise to do with them.

Wouldn’t you rather when your kids coming home from school they reach for the fresh ingredients from the fridge rather than heading straight for the packaged processed foods in the pantry?

Kids who have the skills to cook not only looks impressive to their peers but gives them independence in life. There is nothing worse than a kid growing up and leaving home without cooking skills when all their life they have had their parents cooking for them. They mostly end up living off frozen meals, packaged products and unhealthy fast foods and this could lead to their risk of becoming overweight and obese in adulthood.

Instilling cooking skills in kids from a young age is imperative. Why leave your child in the high chair or keep them perched in front of the TV when they could be gaining important life skills by your side in the kitchen?

If your child is younger than three, get them to wash the veggies or do some stirring, ages three to six can chop with a plastic knife, crack eggs, while ages 6 and older can peel veggies, chop with a real knife and even help out at the stove.

It’s normal if they don’t want to be there and would prefer to be somewhere else, but don’t give up. Starts encouraging them now, make it a fun exercise and you may reap the benefit of your child taking over dinner one day a week.

Here are five reasons why you should be cooking with your kids no matter their age:

  1. Children who cook become adventurous tasters and eaters.
    Involve your kids in the process of cooking, get them to choose ingredients and they will learn in the process how to put flavours together. They will build an appreciation for them and will increase their chances of being curious to try new foods. They may learn they don’t like one food but prefer another and that’s ok. An open-minded approach to food can grow adults who approach life similarly. Arms open and mouth wide to new tastes, cultures and attitudes.
  2. Children who cook say “I can”.
    Adding food to a sizzling hot pan or cooking for 10 or more people may be daunting for some, but for those who have the skills and knowledge, this is a very doable task. Your kid’s “I can” attitude will spread beyond the kitchen walls and into their life, giving them confidence and encouragement that they can do whatever they set out to do.
  3. Cooking is a way to talk about health.
    The rise in childhood obesity has coincided with a fall in home cooking. Getting your child involved in cooking, teaches them the importance of cooking healthy food from scratch from a young age. It also is an opportunity for you to discuss with your child about what foods your body needs to stay healthy for long, such as how fish is brain food, how milk is good for strong bones and how eating a rainbow of fresh foods will ensure they get a variety of minerals and vitamins.
  4. Cooking is a way to talk about healthy ingredients.
    Get your kids involved in the cooking process from the very beginning. Take them to the supermarket with you and get them choosing fresh ingredients, talk to them about the possibility of meals you could make together with these. If your buying packaged products, tell them you are looking for products with ingredients that you can pronounce on the back of the packet. You will be surprised about how much they can get out of one trip to the supermarket.
  5. Cooking brings the family together.
    The kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s a place where you can all get together, chat while you cook, learn more about each other, become closer and share stories, maybe even laugh over some spilt milk. You can share recipes your mother learnt from her grandmother and so on, passing on traditions. You can get creative and experiment with new flavours, techniques and recipes as they become more and more confident in the kitchen.

    By Leah

To Tell Or Not To Tell

To Tell Or Not To Tell

Telling your child they are fat or chubby is one thing you should never do. Why? Because most likely they already know and although you may have good intentions, it can prove to be more harmful than you think.

Sydney based Dietician Lyndi Polivnick from The Nude Nutritionist says the conversation about your child’s weight issue can make them more self-conscious and insecure.

So how can you raise the conversation without telling them the obvious?

Start by structuring the conversation around health instead of weight, says Polivnick, speak to them about healthy foods like fruit and vegetables.

Set by example and encourage them to cook with you, help chop the veggies and learn more about their health benefits, how tasty they can be in fresh home cooked meals and their versatility. Get them asking questions about these foods, learning and gaining cooking skills and healthy food knowledge.

Not only should you child be curious, so should you. “Ask your child ‘How does junk food make you feel?’ and ‘How does healthy food make you feel?’ The intrinsic motivation to feel strong, healthy and/or happy is far more effective in long-term weight management then humiliation and punishment,” says Polivnick

As parents, you are your child’s number one role models. If you don’t have a healthy relationship with food, then most likely your child will adopt these practices and carry them into adulthood with them.
“Overweight children are almost guaranteed to be overweight parents, who are likely to go on to have overweight children themselves. We need to break the cycle by giving children practical skills around healthy eating and teaching them how to cook healthy food for themselves,” says Polivnick.

What a child needs is unconditional love from their number one support group, their parents, and their home should be a place where they feel safe, loved and valued no matter what they look like.

“Fear-mongering and unhelpful comments about their appearance and weight are not the answer,” says Polivnick, “The aim is get children eating healthily naturally, without having the diet or stress about their weight.”

So, get that conversation started today. Get the fresh food talk going and those cooking skills brewing so your kids can take their first steps in the right direction towards their healthy future.

By Leah