Most parents would love to have an ounce of their child’s energy. Science supports the fact that children under the age of 7 years do have more energy than older children and adults. Some researchers attribute it to their deep breathing pattern, which is more effective at oxygenating cells, and others to a child’s ability to live in-the-moment, not distracted by anxiety, worry or regret. What happens when the already-energized child consumes caffeine?
Today, social media and the digital age inundates parents and caregivers with messaging regarding what, when, where, why and how to feed children. Eating healthy is likely a universal goal and I would venture to say that all caregivers desire to serve their children a well-balanced meal three times per day. I, however, would like to challenge what that meal looks like. A healthful meal is not determined by the time it took to prepare. In general “slow food” is healthier, but quick meals can be just as nutritious and buy caregivers more time to enjoy them with their children at a table.
A recent article hit our news feeds this last week highlighting the need to pay closer attention to our children’s plates when dining out. The research team called restaurateurs to action and encouraged a revamp of children’s menus at favored chains to provide entrees, sides, desserts and beverages that fall in-line with a child’s energy needs versus their desires. These modifications would allow youth the opportunity to select any item from the children’s menu and award parents the satisfaction that their child would not be exceeding their needs. But, as it stands children’s menus are not so kid-friendly when it comes to providing age-appropriate portions.
Turn back the clock to when you were 3 years old. Sit down to a “satisfying” snack; half banana, sliced cheese and crackers with ice water before snuggling up on a comfortable couch to watch your favorite show- Elmo’s World. You notice two bowls in front of the couch: one filled with bear-shaped graham crackers and the other with corn chips. Throughout the 14-minute show, nine commercials appear advertising corn chips. Despite feeling satisfied, you naturally indulge in the snacks in front of you. Which snack did you eat more of?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) just released new guidelines to prevent both obesity and eating disorders in America’s youth. These chronic diseases are among the top three that plague children and adolescents in the U.S. About 30% of children and adolescents in the U.S. are now overweight or obese and nearly 3% have been diagnosed with an eating disorder. The nation’s obese youth continue to become more obese despite stable prevalence and more and more children are being diagnosed with eating disorders, especially teens who are just trying to “eat healthier.” When trying to achieve healthier weight, these at-risk populations find themselves on a very slippery slope with good intentions. Additionally, teens often use drastic and dangerous weight loss strategies including severe dieting, diet pills, purging and excessive exercise to get the results they desire.