The processed food epidemic has become a daily task for parents to fight. We are constantly teased with new better, tasting processed foods while simultaneously encouraged to eat organic. Some people are successful at creating and serving extremely healthy, all-natural foods to their kids; however, many of us struggle.
Childhood obesity is real and overfeeding plays a huge part. Kids may love the over-processed fast foods, but why would a 5-year-old be given a Big Mac from McDonald’s?
Excessive feeding teaches kids to continue to overeat food which then can result in obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
To be fair, adult obesity has also been skyrocketing. While we obsess about what our kids are doing, what about us? Adults drink sweet coffee drinks (can you say Frappuccino?), eat processed foods, fast foods, sweets and massive servings of food just because the restaurant served it. We all can do better.
As a pediatric surgeon and mother, I blog about parenting decisions and kids health. I think there is a need to make lifestyle changes in addition to trying to change the diet.
I believe eating Paleo, and organic is an admirable goal; consequently, I give high praise to those who can do it. If I had Oprah’s chef and could come home to fantastic healthy meals, I truly believe I could become a thin vegan! But alas, it is me going to the grocery store and cooking, so ….there is that.
I previously confessed to serving my children overprocessed foods. I am not proud of that fact but neither am I ashamed. It is what it is.
The point of my post was to admit that my choices were similar to many parents and to acknowledge that it occurs every day in millions of families. It is important to understand the reason processed foods are harmful and addictive; however, it is equally important to recognize that moderation can reduce the risk of complications.
Eating processed foods served a purpose during a time period in my kids’ lives and did not lead to the scary results that people write about. Studies report that processed meats (aka bacon and hot dogs) are linked to cancer…but as a scientist, I understand how these studies are done.
The details about the amount of processed meat eaten daily are not discussed. One report came from Sweden; however, Swedish food eaten can be up to 90% canned, frozen and highly processed foods. This is internationally a very high figure.
Eating or drinking anything should be done in moderation and balanced with healthier options. The processed food epidemic grows when these foods are the main part of our diets.
One good piece of news is that a Harvard study showed that all processed foods are not unhealthy! Although I did not know this at the time, I served these healthier options to my girls.
I believe we should not focus on just one part of life. Kids may eat fast foods and processed foods; however, I present ways to keep these foods from causing the harm we all fear.
6 tips to counteract the effects of the processed food epidemic
1. Avoid juice, soda, and sports drinks
A major part of the processed food industry includes adding a high amount of sugar. Drinking sweet drinks also delivers high amounts of sugar to our children.
Recently, the Academy of Pediatrics recommended avoided juices in children and suggested that eating the actual fruit provides great benefits.
2. Drink more water
Water makes up 50-60% of our adult body weight; however, in infants, water accounts for almost 80% of their weight. I love this post about how water impacts the author. My girls and I develop more headaches when we do not drink enough water.
I believe we should all work to insure we drink enough water everyday. Parents should help kids to remember to hydrate and potentially avoid these 17 health issues caused by a lack of water!
3. Take vitamins
I recognize that I am not in agreement with pediatric authorities on this topic. The respected Mayo Clinic and Academy of Pediatrics do not recommend vitamins for “normal healthy kids” because they can get the needed vitamins from a well well-balanced diet.
Remember how I confessed that my kids ate processed foods? Well, I know they did not always eat the best foods to get their vitamins; therefore, my children always did (and still do) take vitamins. If you feel your child’s diet contains processed foods that remove nutrients, you might consider a daily vitamin as well.
4. Limit quantities of food eaten
Overeating occurs with foods that taste good; consequently, this has led to the processed food epidemic. Kids do not overeat carrots. Parents need to be mindful of portion control in children.
5. Put down electronics and play
Childhood obesity increases when physical activity levels are low. A Harvard study from 25 years ago showed increased weight gain in kids who sat and watched excess TV. Imagine the impact of excessive sitting with the electronic device revolution!
My previous post addressed kids’ addiction to electronic devices; however, parents may be more likely to reduce screen time by understanding that excess sitting impacts their kids’ health.
6. Play sports
In addition to burning calories and reducing childhood obesity, participation in sports provides many benefits for children. Feeding your child a chicken sandwich on the way home from soccer practice may become balanced by these benefits. Another opportunity to reduce mom guilt!
Feeding your child a chicken sandwich on the way home from soccer practice may become balanced by these benefits. Another opportunity to reduce mom guilt!
The bottom line, parents need to continue to seek the healthiest food options possible for their kids. A fellow Doctor Mom blogs about the importance of self-care for mothers and has a personal extremely healthy lifestyle; however, she shares her experience feeding her children. Dr. Monique Tello discusses how she understands and accepts that her kids are going to eat some processed foods; therefore, she has made sure these foods are balanced with many other healthy choices. We all need to reach a place where we accept balance instead of pushing for perfection.
Recognizing the processed food epidemic is real, I recommend that you use as many of the mentioned tips to reduce the impact on your children’s long-term health!
As always, much love for supporting my work. I will be adding many more posts to highlight parenting and healthcare tips, so be sure to consider subscribing to my podcast or to my blog to avoid missing a post!
Great tips that all parents should be mindful of and adhere to. By instilling good habits as early as possible, this will surely have the most benefit and result in a much healthier lifestyle and hopefully, happiness and longevity!
Yes, we can all find ways to improve what we are doing. Perfection is not the goal, but we should try for balance!
Thank you for this! I feel like this topic needs to be talked about way more than it is. I try to watch what my daughter eats and limit the junk food as much as I can but it is hard because it is EVERYWHERE! I definitley try to keep her as active as I can.
So glad you like the post. My kids are adults but reading many posts, I would feel intimidated about how I fed my kids. I just want parents to know that it is real AND normal to feed processed foods. Just be sure to find ways to balance it out.
A Healthy lifestyle is so important these days.. We are all guilty of having too much processed food and need to make a change in our lifestyles.
Yes, our diets have become fast food/processed food and our lifestyle has become more sedentary with the cell phone and tablet use. Just making clear attempts to reduce some of our bad habits will go a long way to improving our lives. Not looking for perfection anywhere, just some balance.
So much important information in this article. I feed my daughter healthy home made food every day and we eat out every now and then. No fast food restaurant such as McDonald or Burger King for us. The amount of preservatives they put in that stuff scares me.
You are the role model we all dream about! But most of us are not able to feed our kids this way. Because my own daughters are now grown successful adults, who both won full scholarships to college, I share my experiences so that people will not be afraid. My kids ate pop tarts, hot dogs, and fast foods! Not every day but often. The preservatives you talk about caused no harm to them, so I hope to reduce the anxiety parents might have if they choose to eat some of these things.
This is a great post, with some really good tips and advice. I try to insure my son has a healthy balanced diet, along with exercise, but it is easy to give into processed food, especially when you are a busy working mum.
I couldn’t agree more. In my other post, I share some of the processed foods I fed my kids. Balancing those foods out with some of these tips kept us from overdoing it. But processed foods are here to stay, we just need to be moderate it.
Great tips! I’ll definitely keep these in mind. Thanks for posting!
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I am glad you found it useful.
Thanks for sharing this. I have two kids who loves to eat processed food. I’ll let them do your suggestions.
Your comment makes me so happy! Parenting is very hard and many people make it unnecessarily difficult. Moderation should be your key to success in all aspects of life. Eating processed foods is not new but you can focus on so many other aspects of healthy living to balance it out. Kids are on electronics too much which often impacts their sleep, and they also do not play outside or drink enough water every day. Instead of frowning at the occasional hamburger and fries, what other things can you do to improve your child’s health? That is a much less stressful approach. There are many kids who eat healthy food who are not healthy! Although kids should not only eat fast food or processed foods, their health is impacted by many things besides what they eat.
Nice content and tips that every parents can follow. There are also healthy drinks and snacks you can find in vending machines.