Written by Bukola Adebayo, Punch - Nigeria.
Naturally, we all need food to function. Kids especially must eat food to grow well. But in making sure that your child gets the best of nutrients, nutritionists say that emphasis should be on quality not quantity.
They say that obesity has now become a challenge among kids because parents who determine what their kids eat have thrown caution to the wind.
A nutritionist, Dr. James Sanusi, says that by loading your kid's lunch box with junk such as yoghurts, chocolates, biscuits and more, parents may be increasing their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure early in life.
According to Sanusi, biscuits and candies fall among the 21 most dangerous treats you can give to children. In fact, nutritionists have said that giving biscuits or sweets to children regularly is comparable to poisoning them at an early age.
Sadly, biscuits, which many know contain many unhealthy substances and have little or no nutritional value - except the fact that they are a readymade treat that calms children down - are very popular snacks among kids.
Sanusi laments that many children are being diagnosed with high blood glucose and high blood pressure before they are 18 because of the processed foods that parents do not have any qualms giving to their kids.
The nutritionist adds that studies have fingered the high sugar and salt contents in biscuits and sweets as major factors increasing childhood obesity and diabetes.
As toddlers grow older, the lure to give kids sweets and biscuits may become impossible to ignore; but experts say the way out is to resist and look for alternatives. "Parents and guardians may just be saving children from diseases by regulating their daily sugar intake," Sanusi warns.
Also, a 2010 study found that excess fructose - which is very high in biscuits and sweets - actually causes visceral fat cells to mature, setting the stage for a big belly and even bigger future risk of heart disease and diabetes in kids.
Sanusi adds, "One only needs to visit an amusement park, school or day care to see what is happening. More children are becoming obese and accumulating fat around their bellies, a factor for Type-2 diabetes and hypertension."
Why is this so? Experts say it is because more kids are consuming fructose and high sugar-loaded beverages than they burn.
Sanusi notes that when parents give their children biscuits or sweets, they should know that they are giving them sugar in another form.
Well, do you need more reasons to reduce your kids' biscuits or sweet rations? Scientists say the sugar usually used in making these candies and cookies encourages the production of cancer cells, thus reducing one's chances of surviving cancer.
Again, a study in 2013 found that sugars in the intestine triggered the formation of a hormone called GIP, which increases the production of cancerous cells.
The researchers also found that Î²-catenin, in fact, might affect cells' susceptibility to cancer formation.
The scientists likened parents giving kids biscuits and sweets to giving children 'soft' alcohol, which could be addictive.
It is time for a shift in attitude, says head nutritionist at Queensland University of Technology, United States of America, Dr. Rebecca Byrne, who is in the middle of a five-year study into children's eating habits.
She says, "Being a chubby baby is often seen as healthy and something children will grow out of. But chubby toddlers are more likely to be chubby kids, who grow into overweight adults prone to health problems associated with being overweight. One in four children will start school being overweight or obese."
How do you know your child is overweight? Consultant Paediatrician, Dr. Gbenga Ogundele, says it is when his or her body mass index, which is a measure of body fat, is high.
He adds that the quantity and quality of food children eat contributes significantly to an elevated BMI.
Ogundele adds," If your child regularly eats high-calorie foods, such as fried foods, fast food, potato chips, cookies, cake and soda, he/she is likely to be consuming more calories than she needs.
He says that mothers need to be educated and enlightened on the health risks associated with overstuffing their children despite the cultural love for chubby children.
"Mums are more worried that their children are not eating enough and not gaining enough weight, so they can put pressure on their kids to eat more, using bribes such as dessert and treats.
"Instead of making kids eat everything on their plates, we need to praise them when they try new foods and listen to them when they say they have had enough. They should also make sure that it is nutritious meals they prepare for the family," Ogundele concludes.