With reports of increasing obesity and key nutrient deficiencies in seemingly healthy looking children, poor diets are becoming a huge concern. This is further fuelled by easy access to refined processed foods, the onslaught of advertisements for these foods, a shift from traditional food habits and the lack of physical activity. Evidence shows that adults with poor eating habits find it difficult to change to a healthier diet due to tastes acquired in childhood for sugary, salty or fatty foods. Inculcating healthy eating habits early on will help children get used to certain tastes, which otherwise become difficult to adopt later on in life. Read on to see how, by paying attention to simple details during childhood, we can help steer our children towards lifelong healthy eating habits.
Dr. Yamuna. S, a leading paediatrician and adolescent physician states that the fallout of ‘child-centric parenting’ is a diet that caters to thechild’s likes and dislikes rather than the nutrition content of the meal! A shocking statistic — approximately 30% of her patients are overweight and 10% obese!
So what is a Balanced Diet?
The term ‘balanced’ simply means choosing a wide variety of foods and drinks from all the food groups for your child. A balanced diet should provide around 50-60% of total calories from carbohydrates, about 10-15% from proteins and 20-30% from fat. It also means limiting certain ‘bad’ nutrients, namely saturated fat, trans fat, salt and refined sugar (see Box ‘Know the Baddies’). While all this seems simple to understand, how do we execute this daily, especially for children? For this we need to get familiar with the following:
- The food groups and the healthy choices in each food group
- Calories your child should consume every day
- Portion sizes — as too much of a healthy food is not necessarily a good thing
Food groups: The picture below shows the adapted version of the Indian food pyramidIt is familiar to many of us, no doubt, but the questions we need to ask are —“Do we actively think about the food groups while planning a meal?” and “Are we choosing the right foods from each group?”
Know the Baddies
Monitor the fat: Limit foods high in bad fat (saturated fat and trans fat). Saturated fat is present in dairy products like full fat milk, butter, cheese, ghee, paneer and in red meats. Trans fat is found in products from local bakeries such as biscuits and puffs, and in street foods, fried snacks and fast foods. Say yes to less salt: The World Health Organization recommends only 1 teaspoon (5g) of salt per person per day. In our country we are nowhere close to this recommendation!