Studies show that obesity in childhood increases the chances of developing the most common preventable diseases Picture: Pexels
THE HOLIDAY season is well and truly here! Some folks like to use this time for recharge - wisely. Let's face it, most of us relax our eating habits and gym membership and use the spare time to just sit around and eat whatever we find in our freezer, not caring of its nutritional value. You might say "Oh, c'mon, it’s the holidays!" If it is only for a week or ten days - fair enough. But months and months of eating rubbish can play havoc on our bodies.
It is important to keep a healthy diet and lifestyle - for our children especially, as we build the base of their future health now. We develop our total number of fat cells in childhood; later in life those cells just grow, not multiply. Studies show that obesity in childhood increases the chances of developing the most common preventable diseases: obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome - with 20% more chance of mortality from common cancers. On the other hand, children who eat more antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables are 38% less likely to develop cancers later in life. And I haven't even mentioned eating disorders.
It is your responsibility as a parent to teach your children good eating habits from the earliest age. If you yourself don't eat well, how do you expect your child to do so? On average Irish families spend only 10-12% of their income on food instead of 40% as seen in other European countries. The quality of our food depends on the quality of the soil that feeds the plants, which feeds our animals and ultimately us. As Darina Allen put it so aptly: money not spent on good food will be given to doctors and pharmacists later. You do not deprive a child if you don’t give them rubbish treats – you deprive them of a healthy future if you do so on a regular basis.
There is ever growing evidence of the connection between our gut ecology and our brain – thus mental health. You grow what you feed in that ecology, so if you grow pathogens (bad bacteria and yeasts) in your children's inner eco-system with daily sugary treats they have a high risk of developing learning difficulties and depression to face later in life. So treat a treat as treat – and replace it with fresh fruits abundant this season.
What they really need is nutrient dense fresh foods for their fast-growing ages. The best way to introduce vegetables to kids is to grow it at home - in pots and pans, outside, on window seals or in utility rooms - wherever. There is nothing more wonderful than eating vegetables you grow yourself and the anticipation and excitement can get the fussiest kids into eating fresh vegetables. Sprouting seeds and legumes are also a good way to introduce much needed vitamins and enzymes into our diet and get children involved. Go ahead; introduce good habits to your family this summer!
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