Jumat, 27 April 2012

How to Keep Your Kids Healthy

This article deals with the effects of diet and nutrition on the health, development, and behavior of children. More research has been done recently looking into the effects of poor diet on youth. For years research had focused on adults, but recently a concerted effort has been made on researching the diseases that affect the young. The data coming back is startling. It reveals a greater level of impact than was previously imagined. More and more information is now painting a picture of the consequences of a poor diet. The effects stretch beyond simple lethargy and obesity to greater mental, emotional, and behavioral health problems as well as impacts on proper growth and physiological development (Child Diet 'linked to IQ). In fact, it turns some old assumptions on their head.

But children are young with a fast metabolism, they shouldn't be as affected, right? Wrong, and one couldn't be much further from the truth. Children are actually far more susceptible to the consequences of a poor diet than adults, for the simple reason that they're still growing. The development of bones, muscles, and brain matter all require a higher level of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Instead of giving this to our children, we have been feeding them foods that actually rob the body of the essentials it needs and have put a burden on developing organs to process the refined foods consumed. Most people wouldn't put sugar in a gas tank because their car wouldn't run and most people wouldn't feed candy and other junk to a growing dog. They know it isn't good, yet when it comes to our children and often to ourselves, we cast a blind eye and use excuses like "They deserve it," "They're young it's OK," "You only live once." These excuses need to stop if we are to turn around an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, rising cancer rates among our youth, and a host of behavioral health problems.

What do you mean by a poor diet? A poor diet can be used almost synonymously with the Standard American Diet. It includes a laundry list of refined foods filled with saturated fats, loaded with sugars, and overburdened with salts. Many of these foods are so over-processed that all of the original nutritional value has been stripped away, which brings in another problem. The less nutritious a meal is the harder it is to feel "full" after a meal, and therefore, the easier it is to overeat. Furthermore, many foods rich in fats and sugars stimulate the release of hormones that make us temporarily feel good. This acts as a short term pleasure that reinforces our bad habits. Not to worry, good foods and exercise also release hormones that stimulate a "happy" response and have longer lasting effects on health and happiness.

Why are we hooked on a poor diet? There are a few common reasons for the consumption of processed, highly refined, nutrient poor foods. As previously stated many of these foods bring a temporary euphoria that is a short-term release of the stresses of our daily lives. The main reasons most people cite are often dealing with convenience, cost, and taste. The modern world can be busy and we often feel there is little time to cook, so fast food becomes the quick, easy option. Many highly processed foods can be relatively cheap and when one looks at obesity rates there is a direct relation to income levels. Areas of greater poverty tend to see greater rates of obesity (The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). Last, taste is a factor that is hard to ignore. We are hard wired to select foods that are highest in energetic value for the smallest energetic costs in attaining that food. In the past that meant the less effort involved for hunting and gathering a significant yield of food was preferable for long-term survival. In the western world we needn't hunt or gather our foods, but the drive to find sweet foods filled with sugars (high in energy) still exists (just look at how many sodas are consumed per year). This drive has led to clever marketing and the selling of many unhealthy foods, often-times with "healthy" labels, such as "natural," "high fiber," "nature made."

What effects does a poor diet have on my child? In short the negative effects are almost too many to count. Numerous health issues ranging from mental, emotional, and physical diseases can all be caused by a poor diet. Research has shown that ADD/ADHD are largely influenced by dietary factors. Aggression and mood swings are linked to diet. Poor bone development, bowed spine, excessive growing pains, and acne can all be linked to a bad diet. As can lower intelligence, lower test scores, lethargy, and poor dental health. Furthermore, new research has shown that the poor diet of a mother can influence a child before they're even born. The unborn fetus fed a steady diet of unhealthy foods is more likely to have diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer later in life (ScienceDaily).

What can I do to improve my child's diet? Start gradually when making changes and improvements to your child's diet. More fruits and vegetables, less refined sugars, fats, and processed foods. If your child is young enough, use fruits instead of cookies as a reward for good behavior. The positive association can have lasting effects. Make the change from soda to natural juice and from juice to water (many juices are still high in sugars). Set goals and create a system of rewards and punishments. Overall keep the changes as positive as possible and reward success through love. It is important to be clear with the rules and guidelines you set and most importantly be consistent.

Eat out less often and try turning off the TV or computer sometimes. When we eat in front of an entertainment device we tend to focus less on the meal and more on the media and often eat more than our body requires without realizing it. Last, be consistent and respectful, yet assume the authority role as a parent. You are doing more good and showing more love in this role than if you allowed your child to "make their own decisions" and eat what they wish. The long-term costs of a good diet cannot be overlooked or downplayed. The improved behavior, happiness, and health will be your reward. Give your child the life they deserve and the edge to succeed.

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