Packets of chips. Bars of chocolate. Biscuit packets. Junk food follows and tempts us through most of our teenage and adult lives, but a recent Melbourne study has found that children begin eating junk food earlier than ever.
The Age recently published an articlewhich explored a study lead by Dr Alison Spence, from the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition at Deakin University which studied 467 children between 2008 and 2015. The study found that more than 90% of the children in it aged between 9 and 18 months were eating over and above the recommended levels of junk food – which, according to the National Health and Medical Research Council should only “be eaten sometimes and in small amounts.” Meanwhile, more than 95% are not eating enough vegetables.
No Room For Junk!
The study makes an especially salient point; in their early years, children’s tummies have literally no room for junk. After babies turn one, they are gradually being weaned off breastfeeding or formula and have room for other foods in their diets. This room should be filled with fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy, which should all work together to form a balanced diet.
If a child is getting recommended servings of each food group there would be no room left for junk food. What the study found, however, is that vegetables and fruits are getting replaced with junk food.
It’s understandable; children tend to turn their little noses up at veggies and eagerly grab packets of biscuits or slices of cake. When you’re in a rush, biscuits are much easier snacks than pieces of fruit.
There are ways to make sure your child is eating enough fruits and veggies and cutting down on junk food. Try recipes which hide or camouflage the flavour of vegetables. If your child loves lollies and cookies, make your own at home by freezing fresh fruit juice or making healthy whole wheat cookies.
Our very own fully qualified Chef Henry works hard to make sure that meals are both healthy and appealing to children. At Aurora Early Education Centre we ensure that the children have a voice, whether it is the process of changing our menu, or deciding when to eat or serving themselves at the table, developing a sense of autonomy and responsibility about food.
Our Mindful Eating practice has helped children with developing patience, kindness, and healthy eating habits. Here’s a little tip to making mealtimes enjoyable and fun: place a piece of fruit and vegetable in your child’s mouth with his/her eyes closed and ask them to guess what it is. Such games can increase children’s positive association with fruits and veggies.
We encourage our children to engage in cooking activities – our most recent example was making pancakes for Shrove Tuesday. We use these experiences to impart multidisciplinary skills; when participating in measuring and mixing ingredients, you have numeracy, literacy and science all rolled into one exciting activity.