Headlines like “Tots teeter on obese” draw attention that children as young as 12 months are being treated for obesity in Queensland.
Toddlers attending the State’s leading childhood obesity clinic include a 16-month-old who weighed 24kg. Some children are presenting with a BMI of 50 while 5-year olds are carrying up to 20kg extra weight.¹
These figures are frightening given the recognised links to obesity-related diseases and a warning from the Cancer Council Queensland that rates of obesity-related cancers among children are increasing.¹ Long term studies have shown that the first two years of a child’s life may determine health issues in adulthood.
For me the question is WHY is this happening?
For decades we have been told to avoid fats – foods are marketed as ‘healthy’ low-fat. Weight loss programs focus on calories rather than nutrients. Recent research is finally revealing what nutritionists have known for many years – good fats are essential to a healthy body; calories comprised of quality nutrients will fuel your body while ‘empty’ calories will contribute to weight gain and ill-health; processed foods are devoid of essential nutrients and full of sugar. Could there be a direct link between processed foods and obesity?
Parents are looking to give their children the best start in life, but clever marketing is making this increasingly difficult. Just look at the amount of sugar in some popular infant meal options:
- Aptamil Profutura contains 2 teaspoons of sugar per serve
- Nestle’s Cerelac infant cereal provides your toddler with 1.5 teaspoons of sugar per serve
- Macro organic fruit puré recommended from 4 months of age contains no less than 3 teaspoons of sugar
So if you were to give your child just one serve of each of the above, they would be consuming over 6 teaspoons of sugar – well over the recommended amount for an adult!
There is no doubt obesity is on the rise – the movie Over Fed & Undernourshed portrays the difficulties experienced by one young boy who was overweight having to learn how to eat nutritious foods and the struggle he experienced giving up the highly-addictive processed ‘foods’ he had been used to.
The dangers of processed sugar have also been well publicised, including That Sugar Film where Damon Gameau consumes foods considered to be healthy easily ingesting 40 teaspoons of sugar daily.
If you want to really help your children, regardless what age they are, remove all processed foods from their diet. Return to making your own pureed fresh vegetables for toddlers and limit the amount of fruit (as this is sweet it may over-stimulate their desire for sweeter foods later on). This is not as difficult as many at first believe. Preparing food from fresh produce has the further benefit of providing different textures and stimulating your child’s taste buds. By giving your children fresh, whole foods you are also eliminating unwanted additives such as preservatives, flavours, colours and genetically modified fillers like corn, soy and wheat.
Some tips on how to source healthy, nutritious foods:
- Organise your weekly schedule to visit a farmers’ market to purchase fresh, locally grown, seasonal produce, perhaps even organic. We have become accustomed to eating the same vegetables and fruits all year rather than eating seasonally. Our body needs variety so rotate what you eat.
- Find a good local butcher who offers organically or pasture-fed meats; avoid grain-fed (grains are not meant to be eaten by grazing animals);
- get organic free-range chickens and eggs (just free range is not enough as these animals are still fed with antibiotics and other growth enhancing substances);
- fresh, locally caught fish – never buy farmed fish as these are fed antibiotics and pellets. Note: All salmon and barramundi sold in Australia has been farmed.
Ask where your food comes from – if the answer is not forthcoming or satisfactory, go somewhere else. You have a choice.
What we put into our bodies determines how healthy we are. Giving your child the very best start in life should be a priority. If you are confused and need guidance, seek the assistance of a qualified natural health practitioner – either a Naturopath or Nutritionist.
¹Reference: Gold Coast Bulletin 7 Nov 2015 p 26