I am a Nutritional Therapist, that basically means I use food as a means for improved health and often preventative health (i.e. what can food do that medication would simulate?).
Surely the best form of preventative health is to get the next generation healthier? You may be surprised to know that if we managed this it would go against the current trend as currently, we are getting unhealthier: –
“It is expected and accepted amongst many scientists and health professionals that this generation will not live as long as the one before it due to lifestyle choices and the associated diseases”.
‘This generation’ is my generation, parents of young children today are not expected to have as long a life expectancy as our parents. Pretty scary right? Not only that but when we look at epigenetics we pass on certain heritable traits via ourepigenome including Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity so this trend will continue. But why?
There are many reasons why we are getting unhealthier but two things I focus on a lot are: –
1. Generational lack of food knowledge and understanding of nutrition
2. Changing food landscape – our food is unrecognisable to 20/30 years ago.
Both are pretty big issues but let’s look at our changing food landscape, what has happened to it?
• Substantial rise in convenience and heavily processed foods
• Processed foods
• Artificial sweeteners
None of this is new but the scale of it is and there-in lies the problem. ‘Treats’ are now the norm, taste-buds have been trained to crave these ingredients in abundance and in terms of our health this is what it is doing: –
Children, yes were not talking adults here are experiencing;
• Type 2 Diabetes (I was recently with a GP who diagnosed an 8-year old with this)
• Tooth decay in milk teeth
• High cholesterol
• High blood pressure
• Joint issues
• Respiratory issues
• Low self esteem
And to top it all off we have a huge increase in children and adults alike being malnourished not due to a lack of food but the nutrient devoid nature of the food.
“I ate sweets and had chips when I was a kid, did me no harm! Besides kids run around all of the time, there’s nothing to him how can he have food related health issues he isn’t fat?
Now, I hear this a lot and it’s understandable in a way why people feel this way but children are not quite as developed biologically as adults so they can’t tolerate as much of these ‘weird’ ingredients plus we cannot compare like for like as I mentioned above our food landscape is now unrecognisable – consider this: –
Children have under developed detoxification systems, meaning that processed foods, high-fat, high-sugar, high salt foods all place an additional burden on their system, it is not easier for them to burn it off.
I was asked to focus on sugar for this blog, big issue is sugar but the sugar tax helps right?
Hmmm, depends on who you are! As a consumer the same products may cost you more. In terms of health I would strongly advocate a diet free from artificial sweeteners, the problem with the sugar tax is, to change recipes food manufacturers have had to bung in a load of these to keep the sweetness people expect.
What can we do about sugar? Well, if you are a new parent or a parent to be it’s much easier- many children have developed a synthetic palate by the age of 2. The younger the child the easier it is to train taste buds yet many babies and toddlers are consuming sugar via drinks, snacks, yogurts and cereals from weaning stages. Your life and their health will be improved if you avoid introducing sugar and most certainly sweeteners for as long as you can. By this I do mean not giving them fruit or naturally occurring sugars.
Sugar is linked with mood disturbances, poor sleep and concentration problems – I cannot stress strongly enough that your life as a parent is a lot easier if your child is not addicted to sugar.
Now, how to avoid it is a different matter entirely. My top tips: –
• Remember you are in charge not the child
• Try not to pass your taste buds on to them, i.e. wouldn’t it be cute to give the baby ice cream? No not really.
• Avoid yogurts aimed at children they can be full of sugar and sweeteners
• Avoid drinks with fruit in the title unless it is actually fruit juice and even them mix with water (the younger the child the higher the water ratio)
• Avoid jars of savoury sauces they can be full of sugar
• Avoid cereals aimed at children, they get away with calling them healthy because they fortify them with vitamins and minerals but many are full of sugar
• Try not to always have a pudding, it sets a habit and an expectation
• Try not to comfort or reward with food particularly food they consider a treat – it can lead to emotional eating adults
I talk regularly on this subject and aim to educate people to make their own empowered choices and decisions on the foods they eat and the foods that build their children. Food manufacturers will not make a seismic change to their products, yet once you start to look at their products more closely you may be less inclined to trust them with your child’s health and relationship with food.
I may sound grumpy or anti-fun in this blog, I am not! I see many health issues that could be avoided and many parents who are tired/exhausted/upset/at the end of their tether with their children’s eating habits. I do enjoy cake and encourage people to have a balanced relationship with food, it certainly isn’t all Kale and seaweed here! But I feel strongly about people being duped with food and the implications that this may have.
I have written more on this subject in my book and in this there are many recipes and suggestions for faff-free family cooking that is easy to implement.
I am always happy to chat on food issues and concerns.