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

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

Easy Ways to Improve Your Diet

Easy Ways to Improve Your Diet

Want to make a change but finding it really hard to suddenly swap all the bad food for good? Here are 10 ways for you to revamp your diet without changing your lifestyle too drastically.

  1. Swap apple juice for an apple.
    Don’t be fooled. Just because it says ‘fruit’ it doesn’t mean it’s healthy for you. in fact, fruit juices contain if not more, then just as much sugar than soft drinks. Coca Cola has 140 calories and 40 grams of sugar – That’s 10 teaspoons per serve! While a serve of apple juice actually has 165 calories and 39 grams of sugar, that’s 9.8 teaspoons per serve. While fruit juices have small amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, they lack fibre and are packed with sugar. The bottom line is, fruit juice do not replace a serve of fruit, they are nutritionally poor! Grab and apple, not only will it keep the doctor way, it’s way easier and less time consuming than getting out a class and pouring the juice in it.
  2. Eat chips from a bowl.
    Studies show your brain doesn’t register when to stop eating when you eat chips straight from the packet. You’re likely to binge more eating this way than if you had poured a finite amount into a bowl. When you see what you have in front of you, your brain registers what and how much you are eating and will alert you to stop when it has had enough. Better yet, why not scrap chips all together and make tasty oven baked kale chips instead!
  3. Choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate.
    Dark chocolate actually contains half the sugar of milk chocolate. Researches found that a small amount of dark chocolate can aid arterial health, reducing chances of artery blocking. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and has shown to boost the pleasure circuit in your brain. Opt for a 70% bitter-sweet dark chocolate, perhaps one square to treat yourself. Everything in moderation.
  4. Choose popcorn instead of chips.
    As long as it’s not popcorn from the cinemas, which contains a lot of butter and sugar, make your own popcorn at home instead. Experts say home-popped popcorn contains no sugar, 1g of fat and 90 calories per a 25g serving as opposed to more than 1000 calories for popcorn at the movies.
  5. Don’t eat with distractions.
    Eating in front of the TV or at your desk in front of the computer can cause you to eat 40% more than you would if you were focusing only on your food at the dinner table. Without realising it, you eat more as your brain is being distracted, focusing on the TV or computer and not the act of eating. Also, eating breakfast on the run is considered a distraction and can cause you to eat more too. When you focus on your eating you are more mindful and aware about what and how much you are eating and your brain will register when it is satisfied.
  6. Don’t gobble your food down.
    It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register it is full. The slower you eat, the better, you could save up to 70 calories by eating slower and for 30 mins. Try be the last on the table to finish your food. Slow and steady wins the race.
  7. Wake up earlier.
    Being an early bird can improve your health and help lower body fat. It helps to kick start your metabolism, working longer in a day and therefore burning more calories. Ensure you go to bed early and get enough sleep as bad sleeping patterns and sleep apnea can lead to weight gain. Adults need at least 7-9 hours sleep, kids 3-6 need 10-13 while 6-17 need 8-11 hours.
  8. Don’t skip breakfast.
    They weren’t lying when they said ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day.’ Eating breakfast minimises your chances of binging later in the day, as your hunger would have been satisfied until lunch time. Breakfast speeds up your metabolism and boosts energy levels in the morning. Kids who skip breakfast may have a deficiency in fibre, vitamins and minerals including iron, calcium and zinc. Those who eat breakfast are more successful at losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight.
  9. Swap white flour pasta for whole-grain varieties.
    Whole-grain pasta is significantly higher in fibre than refined, white flour pasta. White flour products are actually bleached to appear their white/yellowish colour, this means they are high in ingredients that are hard to pronounce and have been highly processed. They also contain less than half the amount of vitamin B and minerals as whole grains. Despite it’s darker colour, whole-grain pasta tastes the same but contains fewer calories, 25% more protein and three times more fibre than traditional white pasta.10. Instead of bread, reach for a wrap.
    Even better, swap that slice of bread for a whole-grain wrap. A wrap has about 100 calories while one slice of bread has 250 calories! Wraps are a significantly healthier choice. If you are out for lunch, most cafes sell wraps. Opt for a salad or veggie wrap over a calorie dense sandwich.

    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