By Archana Rao Dcruz
Healthy eating habits in childhood not only support a child’s growth and development, but also lay the foundations of lifelong health and well being. Recent studies on obesity showed a 70%likelihood of an obese child growing into an obese adult. This means that poor eating habits in childhood makes a child prone to obesity and poor health and even sets the stage for health problems in adulthood.
Nutrition in early years
Early childhood nutrition is especially important to optimal growth of a child since the first year is the time for rapid growth.An infant needs a healthy diet rich in essential vitamins and minerals to stay healthy and grow to his or her optimal potential.
This is also the age when children begin to establish a dietary pattern that will last a lifetime. Since the first year of a child’s life is a critical period when taste preferences develop, it is important to feed the child a healthy diet from the very first year.
To avoid children growing up into overweight adults, it is important not to introduce them to foods that are high in fat and sugar. Junk foods like chocolate, colas, ice-cream, candy and French fries are inappropriate baby foods and infants who are consistently offered sweet or fatty foods develop a preference for them even in adulthood. Infants who are introduced to healthy foods including vegetables and fruits develop a liking for them and are more likely to stick to a healthy diet in the long run.
Cost of obesity
A recent survey threw up some disturbing numbers. About 20% of American children are obese and the numbers are rising rapidly. Even more startling is the fact that 12% of infants in the age group 2 to 5 years are obese. Although these numbers are specific to USA, childhood obesity is a growing trend across the developed world and in many developing nations. It is generally accepted that these statistics reflect poor lifestyle choices. Children are indulging in less physical activity and eating too many empty calories in the form of processed snacks, fried foods and sweet drinks.
The long-term impacts of such eating habits are heavy. Childhood obesity leads to a high risk of developing chronic diseases like asthma, arthritis, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Overweight children are often socially isolated by their peers, making them prone to stress, low self-esteem and depressive tendencies. In addition to the physical and emotional cost, obesity also has serious financial implications – obese adults pay an average of 30% more in health costsand 70% more in medication costs.
Bucking the Trend
Resolving obesity issues among children requires parents to understand and support the nutritional needs of their children. They need to establish healthy habits in the family by making nutritious foods available, controlling the quantity of food consumed and cutting down on the availability of junk food in the house. It is never too early to help your children develop healthy lifestyle habits that will last a lifetime.
As a concerned parent, how do you ensure that your children eat healthy? And how do you manage to steer your children away from junk food? Do share your thoughts with us.