Health Message 9: What’s Hot in Nutrition News

There seems to be something nutrition-related in the news several times-a-week lately. One of the recent messages was about increasing awareness of the association between obesity and cancer. Almost everyone now understands the link between smoking and cancer, but it seems very few of us are aware that obesity is, after smoking, the second biggest preventable cause of cancer. That’s one of the reasons why at A Better Start Southend we are focusing on diet and nutrition.

In research published by Cancer Research UK, it was suggested that on current trend, 70% of millennials (those born between the early 80s to mid-90s) in other words the parents of today, will be overweight or obese by the time they are in their mid-thirties.

Why does this matter? It matters because a child who has two obese parents is 10-12 times more likely to be obese or overweight themselves. The jury is out as to why this happens – it could be because of the food in the home is more likely to be the kind that increases overweight (i.e. foods high in fat and sugar and processed, rather than fresh foods). It could be that people are less sensitive to the signs of being full and, therefore eating to excess and it could be a lack of awareness of the appropriate foods and portion sizes for our young children.

Regardless of what the academic community tells us, it’s important to be aware of what we eat, how often we eat and why we eat; out of boredom, in response to companies’ marketing, because of emotions and stress, rather than hunger.

So how do we address eating in our young children to prevent this? A recent campaign by Public Health England promotes limiting snacks to two a day, and ensuring those snacks are no more than 100 calories each. Some of the suggestions they give include:

  • Lower-fat, lower-sugar fromage frais
  • Fresh or tinned fruit salad (if tinned, ensure the fruit is NOT in syrup)
  • Chopped vegetables in lower-fat hummus (hummus is a great source of protein)
  • Plain rice cakes with lower-fat cheese spread
  • Sugar-free jelly
  • 1 scotch pancake
  • 1 crumpet
  • A slice of malt loaf

We don’t have to rely on packaged goods either for example, we can make our own tasty fruit yoghurts using fresh berries and natural yoghurt.

You can get some really good advice and information about what to feed toddlers and young children from First Steps Nutrition.

When shopping, check the traffic light labels on the front of the packs, and select those with green or orange labels, rather than red. These labels indicate whether foods are high or low in sugar, saturated fat or salt. For even more information about the calorie, fat, sugar and salt content of the foods you are buying, why not use the Change4life food scanner app? Once you scan the bar code of the item, it will give you the nutritional information that is quick and easy to read.

Be careful about relying too heavily on “ultra-processed” foods (e.g. breakfast cereals, cakes and biscuits, confectionery, dried ready-meals and those which rely heavily on additives and flavouring), they’re quick and convenient, but very low in vitamins, minerals, fibre and other nutrients we need for our health.

Remember to check with your health visitor if you’re not sure about the nutritional requirements of your children. Calorie requirements change as your child grows, and it’s easy to under-estimate or over-estimate just how many calories your child is getting compared to their needs. We need to get it right from the start to give our children the best start in life and avoid health risks in later life.

Don’t forget to check out our FREE  HENRY programme which provides families with expert advice and support around improving the diet and nutrition for you and your young children.

If you are interested in HENRY courses through A Better Start Southend, contact Carole Keep, HENRY Programme Coordinator on 07858 294972

See our upcoming events here.


Article published March 2018

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