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

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

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

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