Our kids are eating more processed foods than ever before.
It often comes down to a matter of convenience and ease in a fast-paced and rushed world, but it is our responsibility as parents to encourage our children to eat well for a balanced and varied diet.
What Are Processed Foods?
Processed foods are essentially foods that have been altered from their original state. Chopping fruit, grinding foods, and freezing vegetables are all examples of how our food can be processed. In addition, adding sweeteners, additives, preservatives, and dyes to our food continue the processing of our foods to an extent that they may be tasty - but not good for us. Our food is becoming more and more processed, and we are choosing these convenience foods without considering how harmful they can be to our health.
How Bad Are Processed Foods?
Research has long indicated that overly processed foods can lead to poorer health in both kids and adults. A diet high in processed foods has been linked to obesity in children along with an increased risk of high blood pressure and insulin resistance. In adults, the risk factors include certain cancers and heart disease. Undeniably, the answer is yes, excessive consumption of processed foods is bad for our health.
Processed foods include higher quantities of salt, sugar, and trans fats with limited necessary nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Knowing these foods are bad for us is all well and good, but what can we do when our supermarket aisles are full of easy, tasty choices which we plate up night after night?
How To Encourage Kids To Eat Well
Growing up, my parents always said, "everything in moderation" and this remains a mantra I live by. We can not expect ourselves to give up processed foods entirely. What would a house with kids be like without the occasional ice-cream or ice-pop! However, we can actively think about the food options we are bringing into our homes and only use processed foods when necessary.
Read the ingredients – Look for foods with less processing, for example, fewer additives, colouring, and pre-packaged meals. Explain to kids the pros and cons of these processes in our foods and help them to make good choices.
Cook more often – It has been proven that the more we cook from scratch at home, the less processed foods we use and consume. Cooking as a family encourages our kids to be more conscious of the foods they eat and teaches them how to cook.
Serve fresh foods – Give kids the option of healthy fruits and snacks instead of processed foods. In this way, we are broadening our kids’ palate, encouraging them to actively choose healthy options, and giving them the right nutrients for a healthy diet.