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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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

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

Protein-Based Breakfast Burns More Fat

Protein-Based Breakfast Burns More Fat

Start the day on a healthy note with a protein-based breakfast. A study conducted by the University of Arkansas found kids, especially overweight ones, who ate a breakfast high in protein burned more fat throughout the day than the kids who ate a high carbohydrate breakfast.

So what is it about protein that enables this fat-burning process to happen?

Proteins are the building blocks for life and are an essential food group. As we eat protein, it digests to release amino acids, which aid in muscle growth and repair. They are also a great slow releasing energy source, which means you stay feeling fuller for longer.

Foods high in protein:

  • lean meat, poultry and fish
  • eggs
  • dairy products like milk, yoghurt and cheese
  • seeds and nuts
  • beans and legumes
  • soy products eg: tofu
  • some grain and cereal-based products

Now you understand how protein helps us feel full for longer, providing us with a slow energy release throughout the day, you can make the change and start burning that extra fat before lunchtime.

Ideas for breakfast that are high in protein:

Eggs you way and beans on toast – They’re loaded with protein and vitamin D, plus hard-to-get choline, a nutrient that may curb anxiety and boost memory.

Cheesy scrambled eggs – Cheese and eggs taste great together and may help combat osteoporosis as the calcium in cheese is more easily absorbed into the body with the addition of vitamin D-rich eggs.

Cereal with greek yoghurt or low-fat milk – Opt for cereals with at least 5 grams of protein and 5 grams of fibre per serving. Some high protein cereal brands: Weetbix, All Bran, Carman’s Gluten Free or Fruit Free Muesli,Vogel’s Ultra Bran or Goodness cereals.

Wheat-free pancakes – Made with almond meal and flaxseed instead of white flour. They’re high in fibre and protein with nearly no sugar whatsoever.

Quinoa porridge with poached pear – This is a great alternative to oats. It’s gluten free, dairy free and protein-packed.

Banana Oat Muffins – They contain 8 grams of protein per muffin which has 100 calories. They are a much healthier alternative to bakery muffins, which can have about 400 per serving and are usually high in fat, sugar, and sodium.

Protein and fruit smoothie – A quick and healthy high protein breakfast. Wiz up in a blender some water, ice, greek yoghurt, a serve of any fruit you like and some protein powder. Delicious.

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

RECIPE: Blueberry Froyo

RECIPE: Blueberry Froyo

A colourful, easy and healthy dessert fit for the whole family throughout the warmer months.

ice cream magazine

Ruminative waffle. Much of my ‘work’ is fortunately back-lit by humour. Daily discourse with smart, savvy, warm and witty people who are mostly in need of some joined-up-thinking.  Some are quite buttoned up, whereas others aspire toward the risqué with waspish intensity. Vicissitudes voiced in the wilderness of obviousness (you heard it here first). So often, as we give lip service to a concern, we find sense during our own narrative and resolve swiftly follows.

DSC_6040

With this as reassurance……

I was conversing with the contents of the fridge. Joining the every day natter between ingredients and their across-the-board qualities, nothing weird you understand?

“We are already a serious item” said the blueberries and lime

“I will not countenance such goings on in here.” I declare in my clipped 1950’s BBC style English elocution.

“Just lighten up’.” Said the cool creme fraiche?

“Blueberries, fresh lime, Greek yoghurt, creme fraiche” my retort. “Let’s be honest…

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