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The statistics surrounding early childhood obesity are
alarming, even though good nutrition isn't a difficult nut to crack
At first I thought the world had gone mad – was National Diabetes
Week really being promoted by allowing school children to buy
jelly babies? Oh the irony!
Then I looked closer. The jelly baby promotion was a month-long initiative
by Woolworths to support research into Type 1 Diabetes. Now the
jelly babies made sense – a symbol of how to fix dropping blood sugar levels.
Diabetes Week, an initiative of Diabetes Australia, is about
awareness of Type 2 Diabetes. This is a condition that's
lifestyle-related and preventable, and often caused by a diet too
heavy in fats and sugars. So whether you're talking about Type 1 or
Type 2 Diabetes, those jelly babies are either the heroes or the villains.
Type 2 Diabetes is now the fastest growing chronic condition in
Australia. Currently almost a million Aussies are diagnosed, with 10%
of those diagnoses occurring in just the last 12 months!
Since Type 2 Diabetes is preventable, why are the rates still
skyrocketing? Something to do with our culture's addiction to
processed foods over fresh whole foods, maybe?
There's certainly a whole lot of misinformation out there. The latest
media thought bubble is that burgeoning rates of childhood obesity are
being caused by full cream dairy products. Other
national research recommends that children aged 4 - 7 should
only have one serve of fruit per day while simultaneously saying that
one or two servings of "allowable extras" (cakes, pies, soft
drinks, lollies) is fine.
I had a heated debate with a colleague recently. She said the reason
parents feed their children so much highly processed food is because
it's cheaper than fresh whole foods. When educated people start saying
this sort of thing, we're in real trouble as a society. Perhaps this
explains why, during 12 months of recess duty, I only saw two pieces
of fruit amongst a sea of highly processed, packaged food.
Good nutrition not only improves children's behavior, but also has
long-term health benefits. The statistics surrounding early childhood
obesity are alarming, even though good nutrition isn't a difficult nut
to crack. Unfortunately there's an incredible amount of hype and
conflicting messages out there, deliberately designed to confuse and distract.
Ask any TAFE teacher of the Certificate
IV in Allied Health Assistance (Nutrition and Dietetics) and
they'll tell you the same thing – for optimum health eat plenty of
fresh fruit, veggies, whole grains, nuts and cereals with moderate
amounts of lean meats and full cream dairy. Try to mostly avoid highly
refined or processed foods, which are usually very high in sugar, salt
and fat. It's that simple.
It seems so straightforward and yet there's always a twist. Consider
the high-pressure tactics of fast food chains touting their wares (and
guarding their profit margins). Sadly this is also very common for
sporting events and sporting teams. Children don't see the amount of
intense, behind-the-scenes training that their sport stars engage in.
All they see is their athletic heroes drinking sports drinks, soft
drinks and being sponsored by fatty processed food products. This
marketing blatantly encourages poor food choices.
It's true that parents have the choice to say no to these food
products. But the pressure from children is great. Parents who succumb
to this pressure may not realise that they're setting bad food habits
and long term health problems for their children.
On a brighter note though, governments are at least starting to
consider nutrition with the implementation of school programs such as
and focusing on healthy school canteens.
But it doesn't go far enough. Until we have a fully integrated
approach this will be an ongoing problem for generations to come.
Governments need to see that prevention is better than cure. Let's
stop latching onto every new bit of research espousing weird and
wonderful faddish ideas and get back to the simple message that fresh
whole foods in moderation are best.