The Importance of Nutrition Education at an Early Age

The Importance of Nutrition Education at an Early Age

In this article, we are going to talk about Nutrition Education. What is it and why is it so important to teach our children to eat healthily from the very beginning?

Who is Responsible for the Nutrition Education of Children?

Evidently, parents are responsible for the nutrition of children (6-12 years old) followed by school. The latter is in charge of teaching them good habits so that they become aware of the benefits of some products and the harms of others.

Children eating vegetables and fruit

Parents feed their children with what could be healthy or unhealthy products. Even if their intentions are good, they may not always pick the best products.

How the Industry Manipulates Child Nutrition

Packaging

Children are attracted to products that are more eye-catching and colorful. In fact, the industry does this on purpose. However, these tend to be the products with less benefits for them.

For example, processed products (which contain too much refined sugar) including all kinds of cereals, ice cream, chocolate (with a very low percentage of cocoa), sauces, drinks… as well as those bags filled with sweets that are sold almost everywhere. Above all, these contain products with such a poor nutrient value that it is difficult to refer to them as food

Parent responsibility in Nutrition Education

They only provide many calories with a lot of sugar and saturated fats. However, they completely lack fiber and protein, which tend to have a bad quality (incomplete)

Flavor and Texture

Above all, children tend to focus on these two aspects. This is normal due to their age and their lack of knowledge or awareness. That is why they pick the products that appeal to their sight and taste. But most of them tend to be processed, refined or saturated products. The fat content tends to come from palm or palm kernel, also known as hydrogenated fats. These are the most harmful for our organism because they are cancerous fats. However, we can still buy them and eat them with the same ease as if they were a piece of fruit.

Additives

Moreover, most products from the supermarket also have additives and preservatives (ones worse than others… we will discuss this in another article). That is why it is so important to pick the best products for ourselves and our children. Because even the powdered products from some brands have a way too high added sugar content.

Supermarket aisle

Supermarket Aisle (DORITOS, FRIED PRODUCTS, FUNYUNS, GROCERY, JUNK FOOD, POPCORN, SNACKS).

Similarities between Sweets and Morphine

The scientific literature has proven how sweets and morphine prolong the time of a meal. This effect is blocked with naloxone. Eating pleasant meals, specially sweets, will release endogenous opioid substances that will produce an analgesic effect (Rada et al., 2005, p.9).

Diseases caused by a Bad Nutrition in Children

A constant and prolonged intake of bad quality products can trigger several diseases. For instance, the so called type II diabetes (a disease that it becoming more an more common in developed countries); child obesity, which can last until adulthood; as well as heart diseases once they reach adulthood. Eating either a little or a lot can also trigger eating disorders and diseases like bulimia, anorexia, etc.

Child on a scale

Child Obesity

This problem could be due to an imbalance between the calorie intake and expenditure. Moreover, it also involves an important hereditary factor. Actually, this is more complex since we are talking about genetics, which we cannot change. However, this should not be an excuse to avoid eating healthily and doing moderate physical exercise regularly. Taking care of ourselves is crucial if we want to improve our health and, consequently, have a good quality of life.

Psychological Problem

There are other issues that can contribute to this problem, such as the emotional factor. A low self-esteem and a negative perception of ourselves can cause mental problems. When this happens to children, they will start thinking negatively, feeling less worth than the rest. Consequently, this will make them less social, avoiding any type of interaction with their colleagues. This happens because they think that they can take advantage of their problem to laugh and joke about it (Hidalgo et Güemes, 2011).

Obese child eating chips

Attention Deficit

In addition, this products can trigger attention deficit in children. This is due to the fact that their body becomes like addicted to these products, affecting their cognitive performance and causing anxiety too.

It is hard to make children see how important it is to follow a good nutrition and active lifestyle. That is why as parents and teachers, we need to be aware and try to make our best to deal with these problems.

Responsibility of Parents in Nutrition Education

Parents are responsible for giving their children the best nutrition education that they possibly can. In fact, they need to make sure that they follow good eating habits that will last throughout their whole life. That is why nutrition education is so important and indispensable at an early age. The sooner the children become used to a varied routine with natural products, the sooner they will become used to eating quality and nutritious products instead of processed ones.

The importance of Nutrition Education

Selling these products is allowed because they do not produce (or tend to produce) short-term harmful effects. Moreover, we tend to think that people eat them occasionally, which is not usually the case.

Importance of Breakfast

To conclude, I would like to highlight the importance of a complete breakfast with fruit, dairy products and cereals. But let’s not forget that not all products are the same and we have to pick the best ones for our children.

Pancakes with blueberries and strawberries

Benefits of Quality Products

The higher the quality of our meals, the better for our organism. For instance: we will be satiated for longer; the insulin peaks will not be as sudden as with processed and sugary products; we will remain active for longer due to the gradual energy release; better mood; healthy body weight; and a long list of short, medium and long term benefits (Cubero et al., 2013).

Products Advised for Children at an Early Age

School Meal

Sources

  • Cubero J, Calderón M, Guerra S, Costilo E, Pozo A, Ruiz C. (2013). Análisis del desayuno en una población de escolares del 3º ciclo de Primaria; una recurso didáctico en Educación para la Salud. Revista Campo Abierto. 32(2):145-153.
  • Hidalgo M.I. y Güemes M. (En Mayo del 2011). Nutrición del preescolar, escolar y adolescente. Pediatría Integral (SEPEAP). XV (4): 351-368.
  • Rada P, Avena N y Hoebel B. (2005). “Adicción” al azúcar: ¿Mito o realidad?. Revista Venezolana de Endocrinología y Metabolismo. 3 (2): 2-12.

Related Entries

  • The Power of the Sugar Industry
  • CrossFit Kids, Starting at an Early Age
  • Strength Routine for Children and Adolescents
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About Ángel Romero
Ángel Romero
Ángel Romero has been passionate about sport since he was a child, and he has made a way of life out of spots. Before studying, he worked as a specialist gym monitor and he collaborates with the HSN Blog writing interesting articles about nutrition.
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