The statistics paint a fairly bleak picture of our children’s health. Approximately 18% of kids in Australia are classified as overweight and only 29% of them reach their daily exercise requirements. We’re not blind to our need to change, we just don’t always have the right information.
Even the ‘healthy’ snacks fail dieticians tests
The fact that cakes, lollies, biscuits, chips and sugary drinks are unhealthy is obvious to most everyone. But there’s a range of convenience foods like breakfast cereals, muesli bars and processed fruit snacks that are hiding behind healthy claims. They are frequently marketed to children and contain almost the same amounts of sugar and fat as those without the ‘healthy’ claims. The only gold star these healthy alternatives receive is their reduction in sodium over the regular packaged foods.
Mituri Pradip Sharma from Nim-Véda Australia warns it is precisely what gives these foods their long shelf life that we should be concerned about.
“Pre packaged foods are particularly dangerous as they contain chemicals and preservatives to ensure long shelf life that may be detrimental to your body. Natural, fresh produce contains nutrients and essential vitamins and minerals that assist with keeping us healthy - the fact that these foods go off after a certain time ensures that we aren't poisoning our body and that we get these essential nutrients in a timely manner. Children are particularly prone to the side effects of pre packaged foods as they are at growing stages of their lives where getting the nutrients fresh food contains is essential.”
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What can you do about it?
In an ideal world both adults and children would focus their diets on fresh foods and avoiding sugary convenience snacks. But let’s be realistic - we are not perfect and everyone gives in to temptation on occasion, be it because of a busy schedule or your youngest's doe eyes. The best action plan is limiting your families prepackaged food intake and encouraging ample exercise. Help your kids engage in active play everyday with a fun trampoline or a MyDeal home playground.
If you’re looking to make a big change and cut out the packaged foods altogether, then Kate Coleman, founder of No Packet November, has some advice for you.
“No Packet November® aims to teach children that real food is grown and not made in factories where it is covered in bright plastic packaging. We want to empower children and their families to choose fresh foods where possible, and learn how to make simple, nutritious alternatives.”
The campaign has more than just health benefits with participation supporting farmers and local food producers as well as reducing plastic waste. Further, 20% of proceeds are being donated to the Mai Wiru Suga Challenge Foundation which supports Indigenous health.
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The best defence against childhood obesity is a lifestyle dominated by fresh, homemade foods and regular exercise. Check the packaging carefully before buying into big bright health claims and treat packaged foods as occasional treats rather than diet staples.