In industrialized countries about 70% of diseases are directly or indirectly caused by unhealthy eating habits. Food and drinks high in fat and sugars can increase the risk of obesity or being overweight.
Obesity is a risk factor for chronic diseases, and obesity in childhood may lead to diseases typical of adulthood such as type II diabetes, orthopaedic diseases, pulmonary insufficiency, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides levels, fatty liver disease, gallbladder stones and even bowel cancer.
Obesity also causes psychological problems in children and is often associated with low self-esteem and self-worth, insecurity and eating disorders.
We need to re-educate our taste for healthy food and shift our attention from the quantity to the quality of food that we and our children eat. Children eat well if their parents eat well.
The quality of the food on our tables tends to be lower every day. Unfortunately, our children and young people eat large quantities of junk food. Junk food is food high in salt, sugars and fat but low in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and dietary fibres.
Junk foods are highly processed foods produced by the food industry and in general, are ready meals that require no cooking.
Why do children, teenagers and parents eat more and more junk food?
The answer is simple: because they are tasty (the food industry enhances the taste of these foods), convenient (ready meals) and, above all, cheap (they contain raw materials such as sucrose, hydrogenated fats, potatoes, mixed minced meat and fat, that cost very little).
The most popular junk foods are:
- fizzy drinks: that contain preservatives, colouring, sweeteners
- fruit juices: that contain more sugars than fresh-squeezed or blended fruit juices
- sweets: that are high in sugar and contain food colouring
- hamburgers: that have more fats and preservatives than fresh meat
- precooked foods (such as Vienna sausages, wurstel or similar): that are high in fats and preservatives
- Frenchfries, chips: often fried in low quality oils, and high in saturated fats and salt
- packaged industrial products, both sweet (cakes, brioches, snacks) and savoury (pizza, other snacks): that are very high in sugars, fats, preservatives and artificial flavouring than the equivalent “home made” products and are made with highly processed flour
- slicedcheese (or similar processed cheese): that are higher in fat, salt and additives than fresh cheese
- milk chocolate
Healthy diet guidance for families.
- Use fresh food in season, adding seasonings after cooking
- Drink at least 1 and a half litres of water a day
- Cut down on sugars with high glycemic index (white sugar, brown sugar, sweetened drinks, honey, industrial cakes, snacks, crisps and French fries etc.)
- Eat more beans, pulses, fish (above all oily fish such as sardines, herring, anchovy, pilchards and mackerel) and cereals including whole grain cereals
- Eat 5 times a day (breakfast, snack, lunch, snack and dinner)
Take time over your meals, chew food properly and, if you can, eat a wide variety of different foods to ensure a good intake of nutrients and to prevent boredom. Finally, remember that sharing a meal with the family at least once a day, with no TV, is important because it is a time during which you can relax, laugh, tell stories and catch up on the day’s ups and downs with your family.