Unhealthy packed lunches, snacks and junk food and obesity in children

A school year has an average of 180 days. This means that every year children 180 bread boxes served as lunch. Then they get too snacksit’s about 360 snacks Per year. It is therefore important that these meals meet the nutritional needs of a growing child.

Overweight and obesity in children

Dr. Teodora Voicu is a pediatrician and specialized in clinical nutrition and overweight and obesity in children and young people. Together with her colleagues (dietitian and psychologist), she sees many school-aged children who struggle with weight problems every day. She shares her insights with us.

Dr. Voicu and her colleagues.

– How big is the problem in children who come for an overweight/obesity consultation at the Sint-Pieterskliniek in Ottignies?

“Of course, it depends on when the parents make the request. But we already see metabolic disorders (pre-diabetes, high cholesterol) in the blood tests of children as young as 10, and sometimes we even inform. morbid obesity firm”.

Nutritional imbalance in 98% of cases

“Parents go to the endocrinologist thinking that their child has an underlying medical problem. In most cases, it turns out that it’s just a matter of unbalanced nutrition. These extra pounds can be an indicator because they show the imbalance very clearly . Other children who appear to be of normal weight also sometimes consume too much junk food, but you can’t tell from the outside…”

Only 1 to 2% of obese children have another underlying cause. The rest is due to excessive food intake and lack of exercise. And one thing leads to another: obese children are more breathless and it’s harder for them to move. So they become less active.”

How do you know if you are overweight?

Screen in front of your nose while eating

“Eating must be done in one quiet surroundings, without screens. That way, we can really focus on the food, spend more time chewing and eating it satiety sensation set, which takes approximately 15 minutes. If you do something else when you eat, you can eat three plates in the fifteen minutes. So you get the same satiety result as if you deliberately ate one plate, but the energy intake is three times higher.’

– How old are the children who come to your consultation?

“We see children from a young age 2 to 18 years old. However, we have fewer young patients under the age of 9. The concern usually begins in elementary school. In the kindergarten, we are still very attentive, we pay attention to the child’s meals. It gets harder as they gain more freedom. If they are not used to eating vegetables at home, they will also leave them on the blackboard at school.’

The child refuses to eat or plays with the food

– What is the correct position if your child does not want to eat?

“A child must understand that the food he/she is served is safe. This requires education from home. When children begin to eat independently, they generally go through a period(between 2 and 10 years) known as ‘food neophobia’. They naturally resist the food. They want to touch the food and feel the texture before putting it in their mouth. This is their way of taming the new, acquiring it to eat and express their own taste. It may seem rude to you to let your children play with food. But if you keep saying, “Don’t touch,” “You’re getting dirty,” etc., they may think that the food may not be good for them and may make them hard.

An important step in learning to eat food

“ONE inadequate parental access can thus affect the relationship with food and lead to eating disorders later on. If the parents never eat vegetablesThen why would the child eat the vegetables on his plate?”

– Do unhealthy packed lunches and snacks play an important role in these weight problems?

“A balanced day starts in the morning with a healthy breakfast. It becomes more difficult if the child immediately sits down in front of the television first thing in the day and then goes to school without eating. They will be very hungry at dinner time and may eat more or even too much.”

“We also insist on that during the hearing one full meal a day is enough. This can be done in the canteen if the hot meals there are healthy. And the second meal should not contain any protein, because we know that too much of it can lead to obesity later on. There is a tendency to overestimate the amount of protein a child needs, for example by adding yogurt. But we also see that some children don’t drink milk products at all, they only get fruit juice…”

Protein-rich food

what to drink at school

Vegetables in the lunch box

If there are no vegetables, the child will turn to meat or carbohydrates to fill his stomach and satisfy his hunger. In addition, it is easier to eat soft, sweet or fatty food. This is a habit that can easily be skipped from an early age. Chewing – for example an apple – is boring because it requires effort… But the texture is important, as are the fibers. The food must not be too liquid to prevent the child from getting hungry again soon.”

“Snacks are allowed no ’empty’ calories to be. Unfortunately, these are empty calories often cheaper. I still prefer a small slice of wholemeal bread with hazelnut spread (a teaspoon) to a pre-packaged sweet pastry from the supermarket.”

What about older children?

“During adolescence, needs increase and young people can eat much more, especially boys. The composition of the meal at this stage of life can accelerate weight gain.”

Changing eating habits

– Should certain foods be banned?

“The school can be vigilant and help, for example by asking not to bring sweets or soft drinks. In the clinic, we do not ban food. We also do not do “diet diets”. Depending on the child’s age, we stabilize his or her weight instead of to make him or her lose weight, and he or she will make up for it as he or she grows.”

– How do you intervene?

“We focus on unbalanced diets, frequent meals and quantities. We are sometimes surprised when we see a picture of the lunch box. We ask the parents if they would eat that much. They then tell us that they are afraid that their child will go hungry. But a child who gets 4 balanced meals a day will not look for anything else or more. If your child says he is hungry, there may be a blood sugar problem. E.g, because he eats sugar during lunch. Some parents tell me: “My child won’t eat if he doesn’t have sugar, his packed lunch comes back with the vegetables…”. So they give up and put sweet food in the lunch box anyway. How do you get kids to eat vegetables? By putting less bread in the lunchbox, the child eats his vegetables faster.”

No diet for children

“Some parents have already put their child on a diet before they come to us. They may have strong ideas, even follow fad diets, and it is difficult for us to change their mentality. Generally, parents are aware of their children’s nutrition, but in day is there many conflicting messages. Everyone is now an ‘expert’. For example, some parents forbid carbohydrates “because they make you fat”. This can later lead to conditions such as anorexia. Eating well isn’t complicated, but it isn’t easy either. It requires training and (some) cooking”.

For our platform “a balanced lunch box”

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