Today, March 4, is the ‘World Day Against Obesity’ , an event that seeks to make the population aware of this public health problem whose figures are only increasing among adults, youth and children.
Not in vain, in the last 40 years the figures of obese minors between the ages of five and 19 have multiplied by 10 . This represents a total of 129 million obese children and adolescents worldwide ; a true crisis of malnutrition of which the WHO has already warned on several occasions. In our country, childhood obesity is also becoming a serious problem, affecting 28% of children between the ages of three and eight .
It is very important that parents become aware of the serious health problems that childhood obesity can cause , and that we get involved and take care of our children’s diet; from the example and the correct information.
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Healthy foods (and drinks) that we should include in our children’s diet
It is essential to instill a healthy diet from early childhood, eating and/or dining with the family, maintaining a balanced diet , ensuring proper hydration and shopping and cooking with our children. Check out more article at NYC Parenting Voice.
Below we share those foods that should not be missing from the children’s diet if we want to preserve their health and prevent overweight and obesity:
The WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life . Thereafter, infants should receive nutritionally adequate complementary foods, accompanied by breast milk until they are two years of age or older.
In this sense, studies have revealed that opting for breastfeeding from birth and up to at least six months would help combat childhood overweight, reducing the risk by up to 25%.
Only water and milk as drinks
Keeping the body properly hydrated is essential for its proper functioning . In this sense, the only drinks recommended by pediatricians are milk and water, with breastfeeding or formula being the only drink that should be offered to babies under six months of age .
From 12 months we can begin to offer cow’s milk , a food that also provides important nutritional benefits to the children’s diet , being one of the main sources of calcium and providing vitamins A, B2 and B12, vitamin D, minerals such as sodium, magnesium, potassium or phosphorus, carbohydrates, fats and high quality proteins.
As for water, we can start offering it to the baby from six months, and it is important to meet its requirements depending on the child’s age .
Fruits and vegetables
Vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber . Its high consumption not only helps prevent obesity and overweight, but is also associated with a 24% reduction in the risk of heart disease, a 33% reduction in cerebral stroke, a 28% less risk of suffering cardiovascular diseases, a 13% lower risk of cancer and a 31% lower risk of premature death.
The data shows that Spanish children eat little fruit and vegetables , and to change this trend, it is recommended to include vegetables in all the meals that the child makes a day.
We can incorporate vegetables in stews, creams or salads, or offer them roasted, steamed or cooked. As for the fruit, we can give it to them in whole pieces (never in juice), on skewers or by preparing a small mixed fruit salad. Oursite Piddlebabes has more artice for parenting.
Meat and fish
Meat is a fundamental food in our diet , because by varying its source, we can obtain valuable and different nutrients that collaborate with a balanced diet. Thus, for example, red meat is one of the main sources of iron and protein, while white meat helps reduce cholesterol and prevent obesity, as it is low in fat and rich in vitamins.
White and blue fish are also excellent foods , although up to 10 years of age it is not recommended to offer large fish such as emperor, swordfish, dogfish or tuna, due to their high mercury content, and those species of shellfish with high cadmium content.
Cereal is a seed of certain types of grass. Once the protective outer layer is removed, the edible grain remains. It is divided into three parts: the bran layer (it is the outer layer, very rich in fiber), the germ (it is inside and contains most of the nutrients), and the endosperm, which is the part in which there are higher amount of carbohydrates.
Refined cereals lose their bran and germ, so it is advisable to avoid them and replace them with whole grains , such as wheat cereals, rye, spelled, rice… We should also use whole wheat flour for cooking.
Fiber is a component of the diet of great importance to prevent many diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and certain types of cancer, so it is especially recommended to include whole grains in the child’s diet on a daily basis .
Legumes contain proteins, carbohydrates, fiber and good quality fats. They are also rich in vitamins (especially B vitamins) and minerals such as phosphorus, calcium, zinc, iron, potassium and magnesium.
Among the legumes that we can begin to offer the baby from six months are lentils , chickpeas, beans and soybeans. The frequency of consumption should be 3-4 servings a week , and we can offer it in multiple ways such as in a stew, cooked in a salad, in the form of homemade pate, crushed or in cream…
good quality fats
Fats are an important component in the human diet , as they are a source of energy for the body and help in the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, K, and carotenoids. But not just any fat will do , so knowing which ones to choose is essential.
There are foods with healthy fats of plant origin that should not be missing from the diet, such as nuts, sunflower, pumpkin or sesame seeds, avocado ( with countless health benefits ) and the aforementioned legumes. There are also healthy fats of animal origin that we find in foods such as oily fish (which contain a large amount of Omega-3 acids essential for the health of children and adults ) and eggs.
Although they are often forgotten in children’s nutrition, nuts are one of the most beneficial foods, as they provide great energy value, are rich in healthy fats (including the essential linolenic and linoleic acids), proteins, trace elements , vitamins and varied minerals, such as calcium.
When it comes to offering nuts to children, we must be very careful, as this food is one of the foods that causes the most allergies , as well as one of the main causes of choking. The Spanish Association of Pediatrics recommends not offering whole nuts before 5-6 years of age due to the risk of suffocation . However, the nutritional benefits of nuts are very suitable for children, so before that age, they can be offered ground from six months .
Foods to avoid to prevent childhood obesity
But just as there are foods that help prevent obesity, others increase the risk of suffering from it, and with it other associated diseases that can occur both in childhood and in adulthood.
In this group of foods to avoid would be the following:
Junk food and fast food
The fast pace of life that we lead can make us frequently fall into the consumption of fast food and junk or junk food . In addition, the chains that sell this type of food often offer children attractive gifts that quickly catch their attention, making them one of their main customers .
Precooked food, as well as pizzas, hot dogs, hamburgers or fried foods are products that contain an excess of salt, saturated fats, hydrogenated fats, sugars and refined flours. At a nutritional level they do not provide any benefit, but they do contribute to the development of obesity, cardiovascular diseases or diabetes.
The WHO recommends that the daily amount of sugar does not exceed 10% of the calories ingested in both adults and children. In the case of children, it should never exceed 37 grams per day (for a 1,750 calorie diet), the equivalent of nine teaspoons of coffee.
However, both the WHO and the Spanish Association of Pediatrics warn against excessive consumption of sugar in children’s diets , whether in the form of added sugar (including syrups, molasses, syrups…), industrial pastries, ultra-processed foods, juices or products with hidden sugar that we are unaware of .
Fruit juices, sugary drinks and soft drinks
Offering sugary drinks before 12 months doubles the risk of obesity at the age of six. For this reason, pediatricians have long been warning of the danger of juices in children’s diets . They are not healthy or balanced foods for children or adults, but instead, they remain the preferred choice of beverage in many homes .
Juices, whether homemade or industrial, have a high sugar content that favors obesity and favors the appearance of type 2 diabetes. In addition, when ingested quickly, blood sugar levels rise, caloric intake is increased and hunger is reduced, preventing the intake of other healthier foods rich in nutrients that are necessary in the diet. Will be interested to choose baby names for newborn?
Exactly the same thing happens with soft drinks, carbonated drinks and energy drinks , with the addition that in addition to large amounts of sugar, other ingredients such as caffeine, theine or gas are added that can cause discomfort and health problems in children.
Refined flours are whole grains that have been subjected to industrial processing in order to make their particle finer and more digestible, causing them to lose much of their fiber and nutritional quality. Refined flours raise the glycemic index, predisposing to a higher risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer and even infertility.
We find refined flour in products such as cookies, commercial snacks, pastries, white bread, pasta or pizza dough. White wheat flour is also refined flour. We must replace refined flours with healthy options such as wholemeal flours, bran, oatmeal or quinoa.
Trans fats are obtained from unsaturated fats through the hydrogenation of oils (adding hydrogen to oils, with which part of the polyunsaturated fats become saturated). The oils are of vegetable origin, but through this process they increase the level of bad cholesterol, reduce the levels of good cholesterol and promote obesity.
To find out if a product contains trans fats, you have to look on the label for the type of oil it contains, and in the nutritional information check if it contains saturated fats, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats. There are foods that more frequently incorporate this type of fat, such as pre-cooked foods, pastries, ice cream, sauces or appetizers.
Proteins are important and necessary for health , and if we lack them we could suffer from a deficiency in the immune system, growth or intellectual problems in the case of children, or alterations in the development of the fetus in the case of pregnant women.
But just as a diet deficient in proteins is harmful, so is an excess of them , as it could cause alterations in metabolism and liver, kidney and hormonal functions, in addition to putting bone health at risk and increasing the obesity.
However, there are several studies that warn of the excessive consumption of protein in children’s diets , especially proteins of animal origin. Proteins should be 65% of animal origin and 35% of vegetable origin , and adjust their dietary requirements to the child’s age .
Foods that seem healthy but are not
Sometimes the marketing and publishing industry is misleading and makes us believe that there are healthy foods that we should offer our children so that they have a balanced diet. However, these foods hide large amounts of sugar, salt or poor quality fats .
Such would be the case, for example, of baby yogurts and industrial yogurts (some contain approximately 15-18 grams of sugar per 125 ml), infant cereal porridge , breakfast cereals, cereal bars or cookies . .
But in addition to preventing childhood obesity through a careful and balanced diet, parents must set an example of healthy habits , encourage our children to practice exercises and play outdoors, avoid a sedentary lifestyle and excessive screen time and watch for their proper rest and hours of sleep.