Healthy Eating, Healthy Living for Children

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children generally have a healthy attitude about food and seem to be eating well. The child_nutritionnot-so-good news is that obesity is emerging as a problem, likely because they are starving for exercise.

Kids’ Perceptions

On the plus side, eating is among children’s favourite activities. Kids give themselves good marks when asked to evaluate their eating habits, but have some trouble seeing the bigger nutrition picture. Like many of the adults whose views they mirror, they tend to label foods as « good » or « bad ». Fruits, vegetables and milk score high marks as healthy, or « good » foods. Children enjoy foods like chocolate and chips that are not part of the four food groups, but label them as « bad » foods. This polarized view makes it difficult for them to truly evaluate their total eating pattern. What’s more, grains are overlooked as an important part of healthy eating.

Parents have the greatest influence on what kids eat. To reinforce balance, variety and moderation, they can help their children think of foods as being « everyday » and « sometimes » foods. The everyday foods are found in the four food groups; the sometimes foods are treats like chocolate, chips and pop — to be enjoyed occasionally.

Because many children spend at least some time home alone, parents should provide tasty, nutritious snacks that are accessible, such as oatmeal cookies, crunchy cereals, yoghurt or fruit. TV advertising, another influence on children, can be turned into a learning experience by helping children think about how the ads they see influence their view of a product.

The Real Nutrition Picture

Nutrition data on children are scarce, highlighting the importance of a recent survey related to Ontario’s Better Beginnings, Better Futures program. It suggests that children from low-income Ontario families are starving mainly for exercise. Despite low energy intakes, many of the children were obese.

School-age children were less active than preschoolers, suggesting that when days are spent in school, activity patterns change for the worse. Furthermore, although most nutrients were adequate, calcium intake seemed low among the school-age children.

These findings are disturbing because excess weight and low bone density cause serious health problems in the long term, » says Hendricks. « It is time for people to merge nutrition and fitness together in their minds as inseparable parts of a healthy lifestyle equation.


Community Involvement

The environment in which children grow up has an important influence on their lifelong habits. Parents should demand that schools not only teach children about nutrition in the classroom, but also commit to health policies that make healthy eating and daily physical activity an integral part of the school environment.

Communities across the country are responding to address local issues. Such programs can build children’s self-esteem while improving their nutritional health and fitness, by developing their skills and recognizing their achievements, explains Doris Gillis, the nutrition consultant who conducted the review.

Facts about alcohol in pregnancy

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How does alcohol affect my baby?alcohol in pregnancy
When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, it rapidly crosses the barrier of the placenta, andenters the baby’s blood stream. The brain and central nervous system of the unborn childare especially sensitive to alcohol. Babies exposed to alcohol before birth havedevelopmental disabilities. There is no safe quantity of alcohol, so it is best toabstain from alcohol during pregnancy.

What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, FAS, refers to a set of alcohol-related disabilities associatedwith the use of alcohol during pregnancy. In Canada, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is oneof the leading causes of PREVENTABLE birth defects and developmental delay in children.Babies with FAS often have:

  • Elongated and flattened faces: a long upper lip, flattened philtrum (the dip that extends from under the nose to the lip), and flat midface;
  • Retarded growth: low birth weight, decreasing weight gain over time not due to nutrition, disproportional weight to height; and
  • Central nervous system abnormalities: decreased skull size at birth, structural brain abnormalities, impaired fine motor skills, neurosensory hearing loss (nerves connecting the ears to the brain), and poor eye-hand coordination.

In addition, children with FAS may have abnormalities in cognition, language andbehaviour.

What is Fetal Alcohol Effect?
Fetal Alcohol Effect is a term used to describe children who were exposed to alcoholbefore birth, but have only some FAS characteristics. These may include reduced or delayedgrowth of the baby, single birth defects, or developmental learning and behaviouraldisorders that may not be noticed until months or years after the child’s birth.

Prevention of Eating Disorders

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The prevention of eating disorders is fraught with difficulty, risky and has not been very Eating-Disorderssuccessful. This has led many to question whether prevention should even be attempted. But can we afford to wait until all the answers are in? Not if we recognize that eating disorders occur on a continuum, treatment of established cases is not an effective control mechanism, and the clinical and subclinical incidence of eating disorders is high. A study of university students showed that none of those who met the criteria for eating disorders ever tried to get help, and women between the ages of 18 and 21, who had signs of bulimia but did not fulfil the diagnostic criteria, showed higher psychological distress. We cannot afford to wait, but we must tackle prevention with full awareness of the challenges involved.

Fighting the Thinness Model

Our culture sanctions the particular behaviours associated with eating disorders – restraint, dieting and even limited purging – giving a strong message that is difficult to counteract. Our culture also sanctions attitudes that contribute to eating disorders; for example, the emphasis on thinness instead of health. This could be destructive for a growing youth. There is also an intolerance of such changes in women’s bodies as water retention associated with menstruation or those that occur during pregnancy. Within this context, how do we expect the adolescent to accept the tremendous changes associated with puberty?

Building Self-Esteem in Girls
Eating disorders have been related to low self-esteem. How do adolescent girls deal with the lower status of women in our society, or perhaps seeing what little power their mothers may have in relationships? Research at the Stone Centre in Boston looking at women’s development shows that 11- and 12-year-old girls suppress aspects of their selves, and generally are more confused about who they are, their attitudes, values and opinions, and have low self-esteem.