Nutrition and Healthy Eating Tips
Nutrition is without question an underpinning necessity of growth and maturation. Without the correct nutrition young people will not develop optimally, and neither will their performance within sport and physical activity.
According to the Health Survey for England 2014 (1), 60% of adults are overweight or obese, with 24% of those being obese. They also found 17% of children aged 2-15 were obese, with a further 14% being overweight. This means 2 in 3 adults are at least overweight, and almost 1 in 3 children are overweight or obese.
So why are such large populations overweight or obese?
There are several reasons for this, however I believe they mainly revolve around finances, physical activity levels, and time or education. In essence, good food is expensive and crap food is cheap, this causes a problem for people on low incomes especially. Many people now work sedentary jobs, or youths spend hours on video games and less time outside, therefore burning less calories. Finally, time or education refers to people having busy lives and not wanting to or not having the time to prepare quality meals, however with the right education you could prepare quick and healthy meals.
How can we combat this and improve the nutrition quality for young people?
Firstly, young people need to be eating the right foods. There are five main food groups we need to consider in our diet. Fruit and vegetables are possibly the most commonly missed from young people's diet, it has been suggested that a worrying number of 2 to 5 year olds are not meeting the daily recommendations for fruit (50%) and vegetables (78%) (2). The next section is going to introduce each food group and then provide some tips on ways we can improve young people's nutrition.
Dairy - Products such as yoghurt, milk etc. These are important sources of calcium (bone development) and protein (growth and repair).
Meat, Fish, Eggs, Nuts & Seeds - These products are high in protein, which is essential for the body to allow growth and repair.
Grains - These are an important source of energy, try to avoid refined grains such as cakes or biscuits as they can be high in sugar and unhealthy fats. Whole grains and high fibre alternatives are more healthy options.
Fruit - Provide good sources of dietary fibre, minerals, and vitamins which are important to a healthy and growing body.
Vegetables, Legumes, and Beans - Similar to fruit these are full of minerals, vitamins, and dietary fibre which are important to good health as mentioned previously.
The Australian guide to healthy eating (3) suggests around 40% food intake should be made up of fruit and vegetables, which have also been linked to lower rates of obesity and diabetes in children (4,5).
Providing children with too many carbohydrates will cause them to eat more carbs and less vegetables, which could cause the excess energy to be stored as fat and less vitamins and minerals absorbed.
Eat food that is as close to it's natural form as possible (e.g. limited ingredients).
Cook meals at home in order to give children healthier options with less added processed food, such as excess sugar and preservatives etc.
Try to make healthy snacks as available as possible, for example fruit, dairy products, and healthy drinks, instead of crisps, chocolate, and fizzy drinks.
HEALTH & SOCIAL CARE INFORMATION CENTRE (2014). Health Survey for England 2014: Health, social care and lifestyles. [online]. http://www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB19295/HSE2014-Sum-bklet.pdf
LORSON, Barbara A, MELGAR-QUINONEZ, Hugo R, and TAYLOR, Christopher A (2009). Correlates of fruit and vegetable intakes in US children. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109 (3), 474-478.
HEALTHY KIDS ASSOCIATION (2016). Australian Guide To Healthy Eating. [online]. http://healthy-kids.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/AGTHE.png
MILLER, Paige, MOORE, Renee H, and KRAL, Tanja VE (2011). Children's daily fruit and vegetable intake: associations with maternal intake and child weight status. Journal of nutrition education and behavior, 43 (5), 396-400.
ROVNER, Alisha J, and NANSEL, Tonja R (2009). Are children with type 1 diabetes consuming a healthful diet? A review of the current evidence and strategies for dietary change. The Diabetes Educator, 35 (1), 97-107.