Nutrition and Obesity
Food: What does it do to us?
We have all heard that it's good to eat fresh fruit and veg and that is is not so good to eat sweets and chocolate. But how many of us think about how what we eat will affect us ?
I don't just mean that if you eat a lot of sweets and cakes you will put on weight, there is more to it than that.
Basically our food is a big part of what makes us who we are, that's not just whether we are overweight or underweight, but it affects our skin, hair, bodily functions (including bowel movements) the health of our insides and our moods and behaviour. Wow, That's a lot of stuff!
not only that, but when you are young and growing, it will affect the quality of our life as adults, basically, the better we eat now the better our bodies will work as adults and the less likely we are to get diseases.
It's easy to say " Healthy food is just for health freaks" and think that because you seem well now, that it doesn't matter. You might not realise that your tiredness and anger , or sadness is partly due to having to many ups and downs with sugar highs, or that your body is not getting all the nutrients that you need and so you can't function properly and maybe don't have as much energy, or can't concentrate very well.
Are Kids getting fatter?
The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) measures the height and weight of around one million school children in England every year. The figures, for 2013/14, show that 19.1% of children in Year 6 (aged 10-11) were obese and a further 14.4% were overweight. Of children in Reception (aged 4-5), 9.5% were obese and another 13.1% were overweight. This means a third of 10-11 year olds and over a fifth of 4-5 year olds were overweight or obese.
What is the Cause of Obesity?
"Well that's obvious" you think, "it's because of eating too much" and you are right (although some people do have medical conditions which mean they put on a lot of weight) . Weight gain can also be caused by lack of exercise.
There are two main reasons why people eat too much.
Why do some people want to eat so much?
If someone is not getting enough good nutrition through their normal diet, for instance, they might eat lots of bread, burgers, chips, pizzas etc and not much fresh fruit and veg, then their body will be left craving the vitamins and minerals that it needs in order to function well. Those people don't realise but the reason that they keep feeling hungry is because the body is still needing those nutrients, so it gives the mind the signal that it needs more food. Unfortunately if they keep on eating pizzas and food without the nutrition that the body needs, then the body will just keep on feeling hungry.
Our bodies don't need a huge amount of food to be healthy, they just need the right kind of food.
The other main reason that people eat too much is as an escape from depression or bad feelings. We eat for pleasure and it is definitely very enjoyable to sit down with a plate of your favorite food, or a bar of your favourite food! This is one of our little pleasures in life and personally I think that it is fine to indulge yourself once in a while in something that you enjoy that might not be especially good for you, like chocolate or cake. It's when you start to become dependant on these snacks to help yourself feel good that it's a problem.
Why do we like chocolate cake?
The reason that these sugary foods are so attractive and addictive, is the sugar high that we get from them. It releases 'feel good' hormones in our bodies and we get a short burst of energy too. Carbohydrates do this too, things like bread (especially white bread), and potatoes. This is because they turn to sugar during the digestion process.
What shall I do instead?
Instead of over indulging on the wrong things, we can look at the root of the problem and try to do something about that. For instance make sure that you eat more fresh fruit and vegetables. Fill yourself up on good stuff, then you won't be craving unhealthy food and snacks. Sugar is addictive, the more you have it, the more you want it; the less you have it, the less you want it. If you keep wanting to snack on crisps and sweets, then carry some nuts and raisins around with you instead, this will satisfy your snack cravings.
You need to eat lots of different sorts of food to get all the nutrients your body needs to keep you growing, feeling well, feeling good and having lots of energy. Nutritionists divide food into 5 main groups of things that we need to be healthy, (you don't necessarily need meat to be healthy, but if you are a vegetarian or vegan make sure you research carefully about what you need to eat, and don't just eat soya and quorn vegetarian sausages!)
1. Bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, and other cereals These are Carbohydrates and give us lots of long lasting energy, (avoid too much white bread, it turns straight to sugar in your stomach and doesn't have much nutricional value.)
2. Fruit and vegetables Try to eat as many of these as you can. Things like avacados are nice for snacks (with a bit of olive oil) and are really good for you. Fruit and vegetables provide loads of vitamins, minerals and fibre. It is normally best to eat them fresh, but frozen is good and occassionally tinned.
3. Meat, fish, eggs, nuts, beans and lentils. You don't need so much of these things, (especially not red meat) they give you protein which helps you grow. If you are vegan,vegetarian, or enjoy vegetarian food, Japanese Miso paste is useful as it is very high in protein.
4. Milk, cheese, yoghurt These foods contain calcium, which is good for growing bones (and protein), 'Live' yoghurt is good for you. If you are vegan,sesame seeds, bean sprouts, brocolli, kale and blackstrap molasses all contain lots of calcium.
5. Foods containing fat and/or sugar Fat that is in foods like avacados and uncooked olive oil, is good for you, as are sugars in fruit, but sugar and fat in cakes, sweets and ice cream, should not be eaten too much as these are not good for you. Beware of some artificial sugar substitutes such as Aspertaine, they can be very bad for your health.
Junk food contains little or goodness in it at all, it usually contains a lot of sugar and/or fat, examples of junk food are sugary drinks, sweets, lollies, bought biscuits and cakes and salted snacks llike crisps. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't have any of these, but just tey to keep it to i minimum and choose healthy snacks like fruit, dried fruit or nuts when you can.
If in doubt, eat the most natural unprocessed food.The more that food is processed, the more it will lose valuable goodness.
Remember that before farming and even in the early days of farming, most of our food was foreged leaves and vegetables, roots, and fruit and eggs, most of these would be raw, only occasionally we would eat meat and very occassionally we'd eat honey. This is the kind of diet that our bodies thrive best on, lots of vegetables and not much meat or sugar. Luckily today, we have so much choice available when it comes to food, use your choices wisely, help your body and mind to feel as good as it can.
- Pasta Sauce If you don't like vegetables you can make a nice pasta sauce that is full of freshly cooked vegetables like carrots, tomatoes and peppers, put some herbs with this and blend it all up and you won't notice that you are eating vegetables! Make sure you do this with an adult (unless you are an older teenager).
- Fruit smoothies Fruit smoothies are great too and really easy, just chop up some fruit and blend it up with some live yoghurt, add a bit of honey if you like too.
Be More Active
One of the main causes for the massive increase in obesity amongst children, apart from eating too much of the wrong foods, is that kids don't get out to play and run around like they used to. Computer games are so popular that children are choosing to spend more and more time in front of a computer tablet or TV instead of playing outside.
Doing exercise, not only will help you burn off calories, if you've been binging on snacks a bit too much, but it will make you feel happier, so you won't need to use unhealthy food as a way to feel better. The good feeling from eating cakes and snacks is only very short and then it goes, leaving you possibly feeling bloated or sick, or thinking why did I do that? But the good feeling from doing exercise lasts for quite along time after you've finished exercising.
During exercise the body releases endorphins, which make you feel happy and relaxed. This is amuch better way to feel good than eating too many unhealthy snacks.
Try this exercise to help you appreciate taking the time to really enjoy your food, rather than cramming it in your mouth without thinking.
Take one raisin in your hand and close your eyes. Feel the texture of its skin, smell it, gently squeeze it, put it to your ear, does it make any sound when you squeeze it? Now when you put it in your mouth hold it in there don't just swallow it , move it around your mouth slowly, feeling its texture, tasting the flavour, push it up onto the roof of your mouth, now chew it. Really think about how all these sensations feel as you are doing them and eventually swallow it. How is that different to the way you normally eat raisins? Do you eat one at a time ever, or like most people do you cram loads into your mouth at once? Did you enjoy it more than normal? Did anything surprise you?
Being more mindful about our food, what we eat and how much we are eating is important. Being aware of how our body feels after we have eaten something can help us to listen more to the signals that our body gives us.
Food is definately something to enjoy, it is not just a fuel, but by eating more mindfully we can learn to really enjoy our food and not just stuff our faces to make ourselves feel better.
Love your food, but be kind to your body too.
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