Unbalanced diet in children, a problem that is easily resolved

10th September 2021

Children of all ages are known to enjoy all kinds of foods available in supermarkets. These foods however are not necessarily the healthiest or the most favourable for their development. Supermarkets provide a wide variety of foods with a long shelf life, and what these and other ready-to-eat foods all have in common is that they are high in calories and low in nutrients.

What does this mean? This means that these foods contain added fat to prolong their shelf life, and added sugars to make them more appetizing. In addition, they are usually subjected to a variety of processes that cause them to lose most of their nutritional value. As a result, the final product is an unhealthy food with minimal nutritional quality that is high in fat and sugar. Children who consume these types of foods daily can become not only overweight but also malnourished, because they get too many calories but not enough essential nutrients that are vital for their physical and mental development.

How do we choose from thousands of products, which are the most beneficial for our children?

A good rule of thumb is to avoid buying anything you wouldn't buy at the market. Food you can find at the market is usually fresh, varied and unprocessed. This means that sugar, fat and/or salt has not been added and that it is therefore healthier and, possibly, has fewer calories. It is difficult to find food in the market other than fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts, fish, meat and dairy products. With these food groups, you can make a balanced, nutrient-rich diet for the whole family, free of hidden fats and sugars.

Mayo Clinic Healthy Living [webpage]. United States of America (USA): Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER); 2018 [access on 20th of August]. Mayo Clinic Staff. "Nutrition for kids: Guidelines for a healthy diet." Available on: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/nutrition-for-kids/art-20049335

Ministry of Health. "Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Children and Young People (Aged 2–18 years): A background paper" [monography on internet] *. 2nd edition. Wellington: Ministry of Health; 2012 [access on 20th of August]. Available on: https://www.health.govt.nz/system/files/documents/publications/food-nutrition-guidelines-healthy-children-young-people-background-paper-feb15-v2.pdf

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