Children are the product of their environment, if they see you eating junk they will ask for it
KARACHI: What was the last meal you ate?
If it was anything which contained too much sugar, salt or oil, was processed and stripped of most nutrients, then it’s high time you revise your eating habits.
It’s no surprise that obesity is on the rise; risk of heart attacks, diabetes, high cholesterol levels and several other kinds of health problems are common today. Even children are falling prey to these dreaded diseases.
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In an attempt to promote a healthy lifestyle and create awareness among locals, Nestle held a campaign this summer (July – August 2015) called Choose Wellness Choose Nestle across major cities of Pakistan.
A much needed initiative to educate the middle and upper class to make healthier choices.
Get your facts straight
Countless studies have revealed that women and children are suffering from a number of diseases solely due to deficiencies of key nutrients in their body. Men, however, are not as prone to such problems as compared to the other two groups.
Reports from Pakistan National Nutrition Survey 2011 (PNNS) state that 40 per cent of children under the age of five are vitamin D deficient. What’s more surprising is that a staggering number — more than 83 per cent — of pregnant women lack this essential vitamin according to Pakistan Journal of Medicine and Dentistry 2014.
Did you know? Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. If your body is deprived of this vitamin, no matter how much milk or calcium-rich foods you consume, your bones will not reap any benefits.
New research reveals that Vitamin D deficiency is linked to a number of diseases including osteoporosis and depression, which explains why women in Pakistan, especially after menopause, suffer from these diseases.
The best source of vitamin D is sunlight, exposing your arms and legs in the sun during midday for a total of 10-15 minutes every day will produce plenty of vitamin D in your body. Even 1 tablespoon of cod liver oil syrup is considered a good source of vitamin D.
PNNS findings also reveal that vitamin A (54 per cent) and Iron (43.8 per cent) deficiencies soar high among children between the ages of 0-59 months. Vitamin A is important for normal vision and keeping the immune system in check, it also aids functions of major organs in the body. Iron plays a key role in helping red blood cells transfer oxygen to all parts of the body, a lack of iron leads to fatigue and tiredness. Both are essential in a growing child’s diet.
Read: 3 easy recipes to satisfy your sweet tooth
Feed your child sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach and parsley – these foods contain the highest levels of vitamin A and iron.
Tomato Tomahto, same thing
Milo is an example of a popular drink consumed as a milk substitute. Children love drinking it because they love the taste and parents love buying it for their kids thinking it’s chocolate-flavoured milk.
“Milo is not milk, it cannot be used as a milk substitute,” says certified nutritionist Anum Zafar, present at Nestle’s campaign. “The label on the product clearly states that it’s an energy drink. Parents need to start reading labels before buying products,” she added.
She clarified that this drink is targeted and meant for children between the ages of nine and 16. Children younger than nine should not be given this drink. Another example of a food misused is Pediasure, this powdered nutrition drink which serves as a meal replacement is not good for growing kids because it doesn’t allow them to develop taste buds.
“During the development stage, children need to pick up on different types of foods and tastes to develop their taste buds, these powdered drinks do nothing to help the child develop sensitivity to taste,” said the dietitian.
She even pointed out that parents buy food products without knowing the difference between their variants. For example when presented with different types of Nido milk, parents will pick the regular choice and give it to their kids without realising that each variant is for a different age group.
“Parents are feeding their kids the same adult foods they would normally consume, not knowing whether it is good for their child or not,” she said.
It is true that grocery shopping can leave you with a hefty bill, and in order to lessen the load on the wallet parents opt for foods which they believe can be eaten by adults and kids. However, they forget that the nutrition needed by a growing child is vastly different to that needed by an adult.
“Mothers tend to buy low-fat milk, like Nesvita, for themselves; unknowingly they give their growing kids the same milk. They need to understand that young children need fat in their milk, that fat is good for them,” she stressed.
Kids will be kids
During the early 2000s, fast food restaurants started popping up in rapid progression across Pakistan. While our nation was never the healthiest to begin with, there was a time when there used to be a lot of outdoor activities, especially for kids.
Fast forward to 2015, we have more fast food restaurants than cars on our streets. Add electronic games to the mix and we have a serious problem – unsettling obesity. What’s worse is that this health issue is becoming a trend among younger generations.
Read: Recipe: No-bake butter and nut bars
“It’s easy to go out and feed kids a burger or buy them a personal pan pizza, but it only leads to complications and health problems later in life,” said Kanza Sohail, certified nutritionist also part of the campaign.
Kanza explained the horror of seeing kids aged between five and 10 suffering from obesity. She recalled how parents would complain and say yeh toh aur kuch khati hi nahi hai (she refuses to eat anything else).
“No, it’s your fault. You feed your kid junk which is why your child is asking for it,” she says. “You are solely responsible for your child’s behavior and attitude towards food, and if you don’t fix it, you will be damaging your child’s health.”
Kanza believes that parents need to be firm and have an upper hand when it comes to food. Children should by no means be allowed to dictate what goes in their mouth, they don’t know any better.
“Why not make food at home,” Kanza suggests. “If your child wants a burger, make it at home; add plenty of vegetables, bake the patty and enclose in a whole wheat bun. It’s simple, tasty and healthy,” she says.
She recommends that children be given four to five meals a day, with limited proportions. If parents are persistent, the child will automatically choose healthier options.
Steer clear of parathas, fried foods, especially processed foods like packaged meat and chicken products, she warns as these foods have zero nutritional value. Limit junk food intake, make it an occasional option rather than a daily occurrence.
Most importantly keep healthy options at home. If a child sees his parent eating clean, he will automatically opt for healthier options. Our food may lack nutrition because of our cooking methods, but we can make a conscious effort to curb our dietary intake for the better.