B is for Balance
WHO states that poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle, and low rates of breastfeeding are largely to blame for the significant increase in childhood obesity and overweight rates in developing nations.
Obesity and being overweight is no longer a problem of the well-to-do. In low and middle-income populations, the most cost-effective foods are highly-processed, highly-refined foods loaded with sugar, trans-fat, and genetically-modified ingredients- all of which add up to empty calories that aren’t being burned due to increasingly sedentary lifestyles.
Most important, however, is the fact that these low-cost foods are almost completely devoid of any nutrients critical for healthy growth and development. Even with vitamin-fortified foods, children are getting nowhere near the 90+ essential nutrients needed daily to thrive- a balance of 60 minerals, 16 vitamins, 12 amino acids, and 2-3 essential fatty acids. In addition, children in low- and middle-income countries typically have inadequate nutrition pre-natal, during infancy and as a young child. When you stop to think of the combination of nutrient-poor, high-calorie foods, very low rates of physical activity, and inadequate access to quality healthcare, it’s easy to see how this imbalance leads to such alarming rates of obesity in developing nations.
Nutritionally, find healthier substitutes to things your child likes. Variety is key. Almost every flavor and texture a child enjoys - sweet, crispy, salty, crunchy, soft- will have a vegetable, nut, or fruit equivalent. The best part? No creativity is required. Thousands of recipes already exist online for delicious, easy-to-make, healthy snacks and meals. To wean them off their soda and sugary juice drinks, invest in a blender (or better yet, a juicer!) and whip up banana, pineapple, and mango smoothies instead, minus the sugar! Be sure to add some vegetables as well - you’ll be surprised how many vegetables you can hide with the right combination of fruits.