According to some recent findings, Canadian children are falling short when it comes to eating and choosing optimal nutritional sources. The most recent and largest survey in years, conducted by the Canadian Community Health Survey, asked more than 35,000 people to recall what they had eaten during the 24 hours prior to being interviewed.
Nutritional challenges for kids
The findings revealed that Canadian children face a number of nutritional challenges, including the following:
• Seven out of 10 children aged four to eight do not eat the recommended daily minimum of five servings of vegetables and fruit.
• More than one-third of children aged four to nine do not get the recommended two servings of milk products a day.
• Canadians of all ages get more than one-fifth of their calories from "other foods," which are foods and beverages that are not part of the four major groups. "Other foods" include fats and oils such as butter and cooking oils; foods that are mostly sugar such as jam and candy; high-fat and/or high-salt foods such as chips (potato, corn, etc.); beverages such as soft drinks, tea, coffee and alcohol; and herbs and condiments such as pickles, mustard and ketchup.
A healthy eating myth
With the rise in childhood obesity, Type 2 diabetes and the psychological effects of being overweight (studies show that obese children rate their quality of life similar to children undergoing chemotherapy), what can parents do to make proactive and positive nutritional changes?
For starters, they can become informed about how to make healthy – yet equally delicious – changes to their family's diet. The notions that if food is healthy it must be tasteless and a chore to eat are false! Nutritious food can be just as delicious and tasty for palates of all age groups.
The "instead of... try" philosophy
Page 1 of 2 – Want proof that healthy recipes can be tasty? You'll love the Test Kitchen's favourite healthy recipes on page 2!
The following tips below are based on what I call the "instead of... try" philosophy. They are starter steps to help tweak your children's food options by loading up their diets with healthy fruits, vegetables, whole grains and essential fats.
• Instead of deep-fried French fries loaded with unhealthy trans fats, try oven-baked sweet potato French fries. Sweet potatoes contain large amounts of beta-carotene and other carotenoids, which offer immense anticancer protection. These delicious spuds are also loaded with vitamins C and E. (Try Chicken Fingers with Sweet Potato Oven Fries)
• Instead of high-fat and sugar ice cream loaded with calories, try low-fat frozen yogurt filled with calcium for growing bones. Many companies are also now offering yogurts with added probiotics -- the good bacteria that promotes digestive health. For a perfect snack, serve your children plain yogurt with a mixture of their favorite berries on top. (Try our recipe for Fruity Frozen Yogurt)
• Instead of white, refined bread that has been linked to blood sugar fluctuations and obesity, try 100 per cent whole wheat or whole grain bread. As a general rule, one slice of bread should contain a minimum of two grams of fibre. Spread natural (no sugar or oil added) nut butter on top (soy, almond, peanut or cashew) with thinly sliced bananas for a delicious and satisfying after-school snack.
• Instead of eating fast food loaded with empty calories such as chips, pop, chocolate bars or candy, try keeping cut-up fruits and vegetables in your fridge for quick, healthy and easy-access snacks. Drizzle fruit with dark chocolate or have yummy dips such as guacamole, ranch or hummus for the vegetables to encourage your children to eat more whole, live foods.
In addition to implementing the tips above, keep in mind that children adhere to "monkey see, monkey do." In other words, it is very important for nutritional changes to be embraced by the entire family -- adults and children -- in order for them to be long lasting and enjoyed. Bon appetit!
Dr. Joey Shulman is the author of Winning the Food Fight (Wiley, 2003) and national bestseller The Natural Makeover Diet (Wiley, 2006). For more information, visit www.drjoey.com.
Page 2 of 2 – Discover the startling facts about what Canadian kids are eating. Not sure how your family measures up? Find out on page 1.