Unhealthy lunch box, snacks and junk food and obesity in children

Unhealthy lunch box, snacks and junk food and obesity in children
Unhealthy lunch box, snacks and junk food and obesity in children

A school year has an average of 180 days. This means that every year children 180 bread boxes served as lunch. Then they also get snacksthat’s about 360 snacks per year. It is therefore important that these meals meet the nutritional needs of a growing child.

Overweight and obesity in children

dr. Teodora Voicu is a pediatrician and specialized in clinical nutrition and overweight and obesity in children and adolescents. Together with her colleagues (dietitian and psychologist), she sees many school-age children who are struggling with weight problems every day. She shares her insights with us.

Dr. Voicu and her colleagues.

– How big is the problem in children who come to an overweight/obesity consultation at the Sint-Pieterskliniek in Ottignies?

“Of course it depends on when the parents make the request. But we already see metabolic disorders (pre-diabetes, high cholesterol) in the blood tests of children of 10 years old, and sometimes we even state morbid obesity fixed”.

Nutritional imbalance in 98% of cases

“Parents go to the endocrinologist with the idea that their child has an underlying medical problem. In most cases it turns out that it is just a matter of unbalanced nutrition. These extra pounds can be an indicator, because they very clearly show the imbalance. Others children who are apparently normal weight also sometimes consume too much junk food, but you can’t see this from the outside…”

Only 1 to 2% of overweight children have another underlying cause. The rest is due to excessive food intake and lack of exercise. And one thing leads to another: overweight children are more out of breath and it is more difficult for them to move. So they will be less active.”

how do you know if you are overweight?

Screen in front of your nose while eating

“Eating should be done in a quiet environment, without screens. That way we can really focus on the food, take more time to chew and eat it feeling of satiety set, which takes about 15 minutes. If you’re doing something else when you eat, you could very well eat three plates in those fifteen minutes. So you get the same satiety result as if you consciously ate one plate, but the energy intake will be three times higher.”

– How old are the children who come to your consultation?

“We see children from the age of 2 to 18 years old. However, we have fewer young patients under 9 years of age. The concern usually begins in elementary school. In kindergarten we are still very observant, we pay attention to the meals of the child. It gets harder as they get more freedom. If they are not used to eating vegetables at home, they will also leave them on the blackboard at school.”

The child refuses to eat or plays with the food

– What is the correct position if your child does not want to eat?

“A child must understand that the food he/she is served is safe. This requires upbringing from home. When children start eating independently, they generally go through a period(between the ages of 2 and 10 years) known as ‘food neophobia’. They naturally resist the food. They want to touch the food and feel the texture before putting it in their mouth. This is their way of taming the new, to appropriate the act of eating and to express their own taste. It may seem gross to you to let your children play with food. But if you keep saying, “Don’t touch,” “You’re going to get dirty,” etc., they may think the food might not be good for them and may make them hard.”

An essential step in learning to eat food

“A inadequate parental approach can thus affect the relationship with food and lead to eating disorders later on. If the parents never eat vegetablesThen why should the child eat the vegetables on his plate?”

– Do unhealthy lunch boxes and snacks play an important role in these weight problems?

“A balanced day starts in the morning with a healthy breakfast. This becomes more difficult if the child immediately sits in front of the television at the beginning of the day and then goes to school without eating. They will be very hungry at noon and may eat more, or even too much.”

“During the consultation, we also insist that one full meal a day is enough. This can be done in the canteen, if the hot meals there are healthy. And the second meal should not contain any protein, because we know that too much of it can cause obesity later on. There is a tendency to overestimate the amount of protein a child needs, for example by adding yogurt. But we also see that some children don’t drink any dairy products at all, they only get fruit juices…”

Protein-rich food

what to drink at school

Vegetables in the lunch box

If there are no vegetables, the child will turn to meat or carbohydrates to fill his stomach and satisfy hunger. In addition, it is easier to eat soft, sweet or fatty foods. This is a habit that can easily be skipped from the time a child is small. Chewing – an apple, for example – is boring because it takes an effort… But the texture is important, as is fiber. The food should not be too liquid to prevent the child from getting hungry again soon.”

“Snacks are allowed no ’empty’ calories to be. Unfortunately, these empty calories often cheaper. I still prefer a small slice of wholemeal bread with hazelnut spread (one teaspoon) over a prepackaged sweet pastry from the supermarket.”

What about older children?

“In adolescence, needs increase and young people can eat much more, especially boys. The composition of the meal at this stage of life can accelerate weight gain.”

Changing eating habits

– Should certain foods be banned?

“The school can be vigilant and help, for example by asking not to bring sweets or soft drinks. In the clinic we do not forbid food. We also do not do “diets”. Depending on the age of the child, we stabilize his or her her weight instead of making him or her lose weight, and he or she will make up for that as he or she grows.”

– How do you intervene?

“We focus on unbalanced diets, frequent meals and amounts. We are sometimes surprised when we see a photo of the lunch box. We ask the parents if they would eat that much. They then tell us that they are afraid that their child will go hungry. But a child who gets 4 balanced meals a day will not look for anything else or more. If your child says he is hungry, there may be a blood sugar problem. For example, because he eats sugar during lunch. Some parents tell me: “My child won’t eat if he has no sugar, his lunch box will come back with the vegetables…”. So they give up and still put sweet food in the lunch box. How do you get kids to eat vegetables? By putting less bread in the lunch box, the child will eat his vegetables sooner.”

No diet for children

“Some parents have already put their child on a diet before they come to us. They may have strong ideas, follow fashionable diets themselves and it is difficult for us to change their mentality. In general, parents pay attention to their children’s nutrition, but nowadays there are lots of conflicting messages. Everyone is now an ‘expert’. For example, some parents forbid carbohydrates “because they make you fat”. This can later lead to conditions such as anorexia. Eating well isn’t complicated, but it isn’t easy either. It requires education and (some) cooking”.

To our platform “a balanced lunch box”

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Unhealthy lunch box snacks junk food obesity children

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