Supermarket choices impact kids’ health
by Dr. Nimali Fernando —
According to the United States Census Bureau, supermarkets and grocery stores are a $466 billion industry. With nearly 65,000 stores nationwide, supermarkets are designed to meet the needs of those looking for convenient foods, those who want to cook from scratch and everything in between. People can become overwhelmed with so many choices and lose sight of the fact that what they put in their grocery carts can directly impact their overall health.
When it comes to feeding a family, choices we make at the grocery store can make us healthier and save us money. It is time for us to stop considering the price per calorie when it comes to food choices. At first glance, junk food may seem like the better value, but not when we take into account the value of the nutrients per dollar and how full the food makes us feel.
A banana has fewer calories than a bag of chips but delivers more satiation and nutrition at a similar price. Filling the grocery cart with healthy fruits and vegetables does not have to be expensive, and it will be worth it, healthwise, for us and our children.
When we reach for quick, pre-packaged foods, we may be choosing foods that will be detrimental to our health. In fact, we may be adding these five problems:
Early onset of diabetes — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that around 16 percent of caloric intake for children and adults comes from added sugars. A typical teenager in America is ingesting 35 to 45 teaspoons of added sugar a day, and many pre-packaged foods and beverages they eat and drink contain high amounts of sugar. We are now seeing record numbers of type 2 diabetes in children, which can be much harder to manage than diabetes in adults.
Obesity — With one-third of children now overweight or obese, we should be less worried about how many calories our dollars buy and more focused on how many nutrients we buy. Extra calories are leading to weight gain in children, leading them to have back pain, flat feet and poor self-image.
Constipation — Most processed and convenience foods are devoid of fiber, which can lead to trouble in the bathroom. Today, many children suffer from constipation that lasts for months or even years. Constipation can lead to problems like bedwetting and chronic urinary tract infections.
Early coronary artery disease — The consumption of all the added sugars, according to the CDC, has been associated with cardiovascular disease, even among adolescents. In one study, almost 100 percent of 10 year olds in America already had fatty streaks in their coronary arteries. When we choose healthier options we are not just preventing heart disease in kids, but we also may be reversing the disease.
Shortened lifespan — Some experts predict that this generation of children will be the first to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. This is due to the nature of their diet and sedentary lifestyle, which can lead to illness. Obesity is now the number-one risk factor for cancer, and much of the risk factors for cancer in adulthood are established in the first two to three decades of life. If we can teach children to shop nutritionally and make healthy choices from a young age, we are ultimately giving them the best chance for a long, productive life.
The simple act of choosing healthy foods that contain vital nutrients and vitamins can make a serious impact in your long-term health and your children’s health.
Dr. Nimali Fernando, a pediatrician, founded The Doctor Yum Project, a nonprofit organization. They offer kids’ cooking classes, a cooking club, a preschool nutrition program and more. doctoryum.com.
Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 33, Number 6, December 2014/January 2015.