As you may know, i have run successful programmes for kids for many years, and you may be interested to read some research i have done over the years that may surprise you.
Reasons for kids becoming unhealthy
The biggest influences of a child’s eating habits are
Behavioural factors-Time and convenience, meal patterns and dieting
Family (income, working status of mother, family eating patterns, parental weight, diet and knowledge)
Friends (conformity, norms and peer networks)
Schools (school meals, sponsorship, vending machines)
Commercial sites (fast food restaurants, stores)
Consumerism (youth market and pester power)
THE ROLE OF PARENTS
80% of parents in many surveys say they have the greatest responsibility for their child’s health, schools come out 52%, food manufacturers 43%, government 33% and media 32%. Parents admit they are the group that could do most about their child’s eating. Parents tend to make only reactive efforts and don’t make any long term changes, more token gestures.
THE ROLE OF SCHOOLS
Teachers do make some effort in trying to educate children about eating healthily, although there is little or no supervision on what children actually eat at lunch and break times. Most schools give the kids what they want, burgers, chips, pizza, cake etc and plenty of vending machines. Finance seems to be the barrier to schools providing better nutrition too.
Got more stuff on advertising of junk foods but you may be bored by all that!
More facts about kids in this country
Uk eats more than 15% more ready meals than the rest of Europe, double the amount of france and 6 times as many as spain, 80% of households have microwave in uk compared to 27% in Italy for example.
Many mother’s have more cash available now and rely on readily available foods that are quick to cook but have lots of sugar, salt and bad fats. Many mothers are also working or claim not to have time leaving kids with money to make or buy their own snacks, who then tend to make bad choices.
Since many parents see breakfast and lunch boxes a hassle, the media is targeting the parents by advertising quick options instead, again usually full of fat and sugar.
It’s a fact that the more you don’t cook yourself as a parent, the more you rely on poor nutritional choices and you lose track of what you’re really eating in terms of fat, sugar and salt.
Fruit and veg don’t usually go with fatty/sugary foods, so your chances of getting kids to eat fruit and veg are cut that much more again.
The facts are that children are getting more of a choice in which foods they have, and often make lousy choices!
Most children don’t eat anywhere near enough fruit and veg, well below in fact and is usually up to a third less than 30 years ago.
Most children know that fruit and veg does them good and do not know seem to realise that being fat is not good to them, they avoid being fat simply because the opposite sex won’t find them attractive, the link to health doesn’t seem to enter their mind!
Sweets, fast food, sugary snacks, sugary breakfast cereal, crisps and sugary drinks are now the REAL staple foods of kids these days!
The kids with the least money and their families usually have the poorest diets.
HOW TO HELP KIDS WITH PEER PRESSURE
I have numerous examples of kids who worry deeply about the way they look, even if they look very fit and healthy, they can often have 95% compliments or more, but maybe the odd insult will often stick that much more and really hurt them so much that they don’t even notice the good stuff said about them. They often admire the very skinny look that is so common with pop stars and actors/actresses, but when you talk it out with them, they will often admire more curvy and fuller figure stars but are afraid to go against the grain. It’s important to talk it out with the child and really listen to them about their fears and worries about themselves. It often takes constant reassurances to get the message over. A good way sometimes is to get the child to make a list of good and bad comments they have had over the week, and then they can see for themselves that life is really not so bad, in fact it’s often very good! Most kids are told or heavily influenced in the way they think by their friends and the media. Encouraging individual thinking is vital.
Kids have pressure to dress the same way, eat the same way, dye their hair the same way, have their ears pierced, like the same music, have same clothing styles, to hang around in the same company and friends, to constantly change their look and cut their hair the same way.
Its a fact that most kids are teased in school if they eat healthily. A good start can be at home and actually make your child feel special for eating good foods, give them plenty of encouragement. A good way of doing this is using role models, using Ronaldo, wayne rooney, actors, pop stars like beyonce knowles etc and telling your kids that these people rely very heavily on a good diet, and then give examples of someone overweight, spotty etc as someone who eats badly!
Tell your kids who are sports that they will become stronger, run faster, jump higher and have strong muscles and bones if they eat well, as well as good skin and have a good looking body for life if they make the effort now.
It’s impossible to make kids eat right all the time, encourage the odd sugary snack from time to time, and if they have a party for instance, encourage them to eat badly, the usual response from a child is to turn the “bad” food down, because it’s all about rebellion at that age and they sometimes do the opposite of what you say.
Many kids who have a “too healthy” lunch box are sometimes bullied or called posh, the fast food option is often seen as cool. A tactic sometimes is to get together with some of the other parents in the class and make a healthier lunch box the cool way to go. It doesn’t matter whats cool in the rest of the country, a classroom can be cool all on its own with the parents help.
When you make the lunchbox for the child, experiment by making it a bit more exciting! First of all, try picking a cool looking lunch box, there are many around and there’s nothing worse than a bland lunch box, hows that going to inspire a kid to at properly. Studies have shown that 8-10 year olds prefer lunch boxes while 11-12 year olds prefer brown paper bags.
How about using a cold pack or small cooler box for the food. Nothing worse than having soggy, warm food lunch time. Also try keeping lean white meats in the fridge in good supply, as well as low-fat yoghurts and fruit juices.
Pack in some favourite foods from time to time. Nothing wrong with a small slice of pizza, some pasta or wedges now and again. The key guide to doing it healthily is portion size, by keeping them relatively small, you will reduce the calories while still satisfying their sweet tooth.
Celebrate special occasions such as valentine days, the Chinese new year, Indian special days with putting appropriate foods in the lunch box. Variety is the spice of life and keeping it fresh and exciting only takes a couple of minutes longer the night before and a bit of forward planning with your supermarket shopping list.
Use dips and sauces in your lunch box, kids love using dips because it can bring vegetables to life for them. Believe it or not, vegetables are only second to chicken nuggets when it comes to kids favourite dips. Also popular are low-faqt dressings and low fat sauces.
Kids like foods that are fun and tasty so let’s make the effort!
Some suggestions from parents i’ve seen are
“in our home, we like to encourage our kids to decorate their own pizzas with different vegetables, making faces or whatever with peppers, onions, mushrooms, olives and tomatoes. It has changed our kids perceptions of pizzas”
“i encourage my kids to buy a different food every time we shop, like mangoes or pineapple, a new type of bread with different grains, all of it is healthy so they are keen on trying it out when we get home!”
“we have special theme nights, like Japanese night, Chinese night, Indian night, and get the healthier recipes off the internet, it creates real interest in food and different ways of cooking healthy food that my kids say is incredibly tasty”
“ i make baked potatoes and let the kids create a potato bar. I can get healthy toppings such as low-fat cheese, shredded cheese, salsa and some thin broccoli pieces. Kids seem to love the idea of making their own special potatoes they don’t get anywhere else”
“every april, we plant different fruit and veg with the kids in the garden. When they ripen, the kids take pride in their efforts and love to taste all of their good work!”
“Try a different fruit in the box/bag every day for a month, make it a mystery what you’re putting in so its different every day, and try to be really imaginative every day, Monday to Friday”.
Most lunch boxes become tiresome and tedious, as a parent you have the chance to make a real difference in your childs life! Many studies have shown that early intervention in your childs eating has very long term effects in terms of reducing body fat throughout the child’s school life, versus the children in studies who experienced no nutritional intervention.
Some good stuff there i think you’ll agree and sums up how big the problem is right now!