As a parent, you are concerned about your childs’ health and wellbeing. You are in the position to encourage healthy eating early on in life, which will help in ensuring good eating habits are established for life. By doing this you will also help combat the diseases of lifestyle; obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease; which have been on the increase.
Ensuring your child is eating a well balanced diet, could also help with concentration and hyperactivity. In some instances, children have been misdiagnosed with ADHD, when their hyperactivity is purely from not eating a well balanced diet and consuming too many sweets, chocolates and processed foods.
Childhood obesity is on the increase in South Africa. It has been estimated that 25% of children under the age of 19 years old are obese. Childhood obesity increases the risk of developing certain chronic co-morbidities such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke, high cholesterol, osteoarthritis and certain cancers in early adulthood. However, type 2 diabetes which was once considered a disease of adulthood, is now also seen in overweight children!
Childhood obesity can result from a combination of factors. The greatest risk factor however, would be obesity of both parents. This is reflected in the genetics and also in the family’s environment i.e. if both parents are working and the family consumes convenience foods and lead a sedentary lifestyle. The childs environment also plays a role as more energy dense foods, snacks and drinks are available to children in vending machines and tuck shops at schools. Also, with the increase in technology over the years, more children are staying indoors playing computer games instead of doing outdoor activities and exercise. Sedentary behaviour has been identified as one of the most important contributing factors of childhood obesity.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Health professionals, the media, friends or family often say that changing your child’s diet can improve their behaviour, improve their concentration, and even make them more intelligent. But is there a connection between your child’s diet and their behaviour?
In many cases attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been linked to diet. Maybe you have noticed that one brand of a food has more an effect than another. Some parents believe that some types of food additives, such as artificial colourings or refined sugars, can make their child's behaviour worse. Or maybe their hyperactivity is purely from not eating a well balanced diet and consuming too many sweets, chocolates and processed foods. If you do decide to make any changes to your child's diet and cut out certain foods, you should speak to a registered dietitian first, who can check your child is getting a balanced and adequate diet, because permanently eliminating certain foods may be harmful to their growth and development.