Health educators are failing to warn parents that the nutritional content common in most kids’ breakfast cereals is just as unbalanced if not worse than that found in junk foods, thereby putting our children at risk of being overweight and obese.
That’s the view of Maria Deveson Crabbe, Founder and CEO of Australia’s leading nutritional supplement company Aussie Bodies and author of NZ bestseller ‘Your Body Your Life’.
Maria says while recent publicity around childhood obesity has meant that parents are taking greater care in preparing their kids’ school lunches by eliminating take away food, more attention needs to be focussed on what children are consuming at breakfast, reducing sugar and refined flour in their diets and ensuring they get plenty of physical exercise.
“When we think of junk food, we tend to think of fried and fatty foods, fast food and sugary sweets and soft drinks. Parents and educators commonly malign these foods while continuing to feed their kids what I would classify as junk. For instance, many health-conscious parents feed their kids breakfast cereals, without taking into account the high levels of sugar and refined flour/grains many of them contain, and without ensuring the child has some good physical activity lined up to use all that sugar for energy. White breads are also a problem because they contain sugar and/or refined flour.
Without physical activity and plenty of it first thing in the morning, such diets can lead to insulin resistance and put the body in weight gain mode, thereby laying the foundation for an overweight and potentially obese child,” said Ms Deveson Crabbe.
“I would not hesitate to class many kids’ breakfast cereals, breakfast bars and muesli bars as junk food.”
“For instance, one bowl of rice-crisp cereal with milk may be low in fat and kilojoules but it has a significantly high glycemic index (GI). This means it raises blood glucose levels and overstimulates insulin, forcing the body to convert and store the excess glucose as fat. With insufficient activity and protein during the day, the child’s metabolism remains too weak to utilise this fat for fuel as energy, so the child remains locked in fat forming mode,” she said.
“Protein is an important factor in maintaining a healthy weight range but is consistently being overlooked as parents opt for the convenience of crackers, juice cartons and pre-packaged foods and snacks,” she said.
Protein lowers the GI of the meal, stabilising blood sugar and building up your metabolism, ensuring efficient use of kilojoules as energy instead of body fat storage. It actually rescues other foods from being stored as fat,” she said.
Ensuring your child gets adequate protein in their breakfast can be impractical for most parents, especially when there is more than one child to cater for. A quick way is to whip up a fruit smoothie with a high quality protein powder. There are many exciting fruit combinations to keep the kids’ senses buzzing. This makes a perfect GI-lowering accompaniment to breakfast cereals or toast.
Here are some tips when preparing the kids’ lunchbox:
sandwiches, try to use wholemeal or multi-grain bread; white
bread is made with refined flour and elevates blood sugar,
increasing chances of weight gain. Pre-packed slices of
chicken and turkey breast are excellent sources of protein
and very convenient for sandwich making. Eggs are not the
cholesterol culprits we once thought they were – feel free
to incorporate this healthy source of protein, vitamins and
omega 3s in sandwiches. Cheeses, preferably unprocessed,
are good, especially cottage cheese which has the highest
protein content. Incorporate plenty of leafy green
vegetables and tomatoes for antioxidants and fibre. Fruit
is always preferred to fruit juice because, even though both
are rich in vitamins, juice is essentially the sugar content
extracted from the fruit (in the form of fructose). The
added fibre in fruit lowers the GI. Peanut butter is fine
because it contains predominantly poly- and monounsaturated
fats which are not only healthy, they assist metabolism.
Use butter but avoid all types of margarine as these contain
damaged, heat-processed fats which upset the metabolism.
Yogurts are great for digestion and normally contain a good
balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat, but avoid the
low-fat varieties as these tend to be high in sugar.
Minimise muesli bars, fruit bars and breakfast bars as these
are too high in sugar, flour and empty kilojoules. Cheese
sticks, nuts and fruit make for far more nutritious