Over the next few instalments we will be looking at the role vitamins and minerals play in the body
Vitamin A Composition- Vitamin A has 3 active forms, retinoic acid, retinal and retinol as well as a storage form as retinyl ester.
Biological Function- Vitamin A is needed by the eye in the form of retinal to aid scotopic vision as well as colour vision. Retinol is transported to ocular tissue and to the retina by intracellular transport and binding proteins. Rhodopsin, the light sensitive receptor is formed in the rods of the retina and allows for vision in low light areas. Night blindness, or nyctalopia, may be a consequence of inadequate available retinol. The retinoic acid X receptor together with the retinoic acid receptor, regulate the rate of gene expression which are involved in growth and differentiation, resulting in possible birth defects if an excess or a deficit occur during pregnancy.
Dietary Sources of Vitamin A- Foods containing good sources of Vitamin A - Pumpkin, eggs, mango, milk, cheddar cheese Foods containing excellent sources of Vitamin A - Liver, red capsicum, kale, carrot, spinach
Excess Vitamin A- As vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin it means that the body will store the excess amounts, usually in the liver, these levels can accumulate and become dangerous to the body, resulting in hypervitaminosis A. The impact of hypervitaminosis A depends on how quickly and the portion size of the vitamin A that was ingested. Symptoms of excess vitamin A consumption include dizziness, nausea, head pain, possible skin irritations and pains in joints and muscles. In extreme cases, death may also result. Excess intake of Vitamin A may also cause long term tissue damage and possibly irreversible liver damage (National Institutes of Health, 2016). Insufficiency and Deficiency of Vitamin A-
Poor dental health
Deficiency may also occur secondary to:
Malabsorption syndromes such as cystic fibrosis or coeliac disease
Severe liver disease
Risk Factors associated with obesity: Apart from the increased risk of morbidity and mortality associated with obesity, obesity also has an adverse effect on ones inability to live a full and active life. There are many risk factors associated with excessive weight gain and obesity including the possible early onset of some of the following diseases:
Type 2 diabetes: Overweight and obese people increase their chances of developing type 2 diabetes. In obese people insulin may become defective or the overweight or obese body may even become resistant to the insulin that the body is producing (PubMed, 2005).
High blood pressure: As weight increase it takes more pressure for the blood to move around the vessels, particularly if the excess weight is in the abdominal area. As the pressure to move the blood increases, the vessel becomes rigid and less malleable therefore making it more difficult for the blood to be pumped around the body which will result in an increase in blood pressure (National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute, 2015).
Coronary heart disease: Obesity is intertwined with numerous conditions that may cause heart disease including high blood pressure, diabetes, high fat diet and a lack of exercise. In addition to these, excess fat tissue around the heart may also cause abnormal heart function.
Health-related Quality of Life (HRQOL): This is an extremely difficult aspect of obesity to measure as it is a qualitative measurement rather than a quantitative measurement. The HQROL measures the following 8 domains of life:
Role limitations due to physical problems
General health perception
Role limitations due to emotional problems
The HQROL is a good tool to “redefine successful body-weight management goals” as many patients simply choose ‘weight loss’ as a broad goal.
In addition to the abovementioned risk factors, obesity may also be associated with other non-communicable diseases including stroke, hyperlipidaemia, hypertension, biliary tract disease and degenerative arthritis.
What exactly is Osteoarthritis? Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease. It is a chronic condition of joint wear and tear and is caused by the breaking down of cartilage between the joints, which often results in pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints. The most common joints affected by osteoarthritis are the knees, hips and hands, however, osteoarthritis is not exclusive to these joints.
How does osteoarthritis develop? Many determining factors are involved in the development of osteoarthritis. Some are non-modifiable, whilst some are environmental.
Non-modifiable risk factors:
Gender – females are more likely to develop this disease, this is likely due to hormones, the female body structure and menopause
Congenital joint abnormalities
Environmental risk factors:
Repetitive joint loading
Trauma, for example, meniscal tear
Diet – a diet low in vitamin C and D may contribute to the development of this disease
Other contributing factors that may be involved in the development of osteoarthritis:
Pathological disorders, for example, hypothyroidism
Joint inflammation or infection
Cartilage disorders, for example, rheumatoid arthritis
What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis? Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease and therefore may not present any symptoms in the early stages of development. As the disease continues it will create a deep ache in the joint, often accompanied with swelling or perhaps some clicking or cracking noises. The pain is often aggravated by exercise and is alleviated with rest, however, after a full night’s rest the stiffness in the joints may be quite severe. In the later stages of the disease further loss of joint cartilage can lead to joint immobility, tenderness and increased crepitus (cracking of joints due to the presence of air pockets in the tissues). The joint may become quite enlarged due to the joint thickening or excess fluid gathering around the joint.
How is osteoarthritis diagnosed? A doctor may carry out a physical examination looking for signs of joint damage. Further diagnostic tests may be required, these may include plain film X-rays, and less commonly, ultrasound, CT (Computed Tomography) scan or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan which may also be able to detect changes in the joint space. A joint aspiration test may also be required; this involves the withdrawal of joint fluid for further diagnostic investigation.
How do I treat osteoarthritis? There are a range of interventions that can be adopted to reduce the effects of osteoarthritis and possibly slow the process down. These include both lifestyle changes and the use of medical interventions.
Diet – Enjoy a diet of varied fresh fruits and vegetables to ensure all dietary and nutritional requirements are met daily. Consider losing any excess weight as extra weight adds to additional strain on joints and may lead to a decrease in systemic inflammatory activity. Including Omega 3 fatty acids in your diet two to three times a week, may also help to alleviate symptoms, these can be found in seafoods like salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines. Research also shows (Leach, 2010) that an increase in Vitamin C intake may also be of benefit to osteoarthritis sufferers.
Exercise – Physical activity is a great way to get the joints moving to help reduce pain, fatigue and muscle and joint stress, start with a low impact activity like walking or water exercise. Stretching exercises will also help to reduce the impact of osteoarthritis, this may include gentle stretching or something more formal like yoga or tai-chi. Stretching helps to keep the muscles and the joints flexible. Strength training or weight bearing exercises are also important in the treatment of osteoarthritis as they will help to prevent muscle weakness.
Nutritional Supplements – Glucosamine and chondroitin are sometimes used in the treatment of osteoarthritis but the use of these supplements needs to be discussed with your doctor before they can be included in a treatment plan. Vitamins C, E and K and calcium are still under scrutiny in the treatment of aiding osteoarthritis sufferers.
Other – acupuncture, massage and chiropractic interventions may also help to alleviate the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) – these may help to relieve pain and swelling. There are many types of NSAIDs available both over the counter and with a prescription. Analgesics (pain killers) may also be helpful to manage ongoing pain.
Surgery – If pain becomes too much, surgery may be an option. Surgical procedures include resection, osteotomy, arthroscopy, joint replacement, synovectomy or anthrodesis (fusion).
What is the cure for Type 2 diabetes? At this stage there is no cure for diabetes, Type 1 or Type 2. Your diabetes needs to be managed through sensible eating habits and lifestyle choices. It is important that you closely monitor your diabetes as over time the disease will progress and you may require medication and lifestyle changes.
What is the difference between Type 2 and Type 1 diabetes? Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease which results in the pancreas becoming unable to produce insulin. People with Type 1 diabetes must administer their insulin themselves, either through a pump, an injection or oral medication. For this reason Type 1 is sometimes referred to as insulin dependent diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may be referred to as insulin resistant, this means that the pancreas is still making insulin but the body has lost the ability to respond to it.
How did I develop Type 2 diabetes? Type 2 diabetes develops when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to fuel the cells and sugar builds up in the blood – this is referred to as high blood sugar levels.
What are the influencing factors of Type 2 diabetes? You are more at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes if you suffer from one or more of the following conditions:
High blood pressure
You are an older person
You carry extra weight around your waist
Birth weight – Balch (2010)suggests that a baby over 9 pounds is more susceptible to developing Type 2 diabetes in later life
What are the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes? You may not encounter any symptoms of Type 2 diabetes, however you may also experience some of the following symptoms: increased thirst frequent urination increased hunger slow healing wounds blurred vision dizziness/headaches itching skin infections leg cramps lethargy
Will I need to take medication to treat my Type 2 diabetes? You may or may not need to take medication to treat your diabetes – you will need to discuss this with your doctor.
How is type 2 diabetes diagnosed? Diabetes is usually diagnosed through a blood test where the amount of glucose in the blood is measured in accordance with the guidelines from the World Health Organisation. In the presence of symptoms only one blood test needs to be taken, however in the absence of any symptoms it is highly recommended that a further test is performed on a different day.
What is the cure for Type 2 diabetes? At this stage there is no cure for diabetes, Type 1 or Type 2. Your diabetes needs to be managed through sensible eating habits and lifestyle choices. It is important that you closely monitor your diabetes as over time the disease will progress and you may require medication and lifestyle changes.
Will I need to make lifestyle changes? Yes, if you have lived a sedentary lifestyle indulging in all the wrong foods. Whilst people living with diabetes Type 2 do not have to restrict themselves to a ‘diabetic diet’, you do need to ensure that you are consuming a healthy, wholesome diet full of nutrients and very low in processed foods. Your daily food intake should include at least 5 serves of vegetables or legumes, 2 serves of fruit, some grain foods, at least 45-60g (women) and 65-80g (men) of protein (Australian Healthy Food Guide) which can be found in meat, poultry, lentils, tofu or nuts and 2 serves of dairy, with some fats and oils thrown in incidentally. Remember that processed and take away foods are usually high in fats, sugars and salt so it is best to not consume these at all. As with food, diabetics don’t need to live a specific ‘diabetic lifestyle’ but any exercise or movement you can undertake is going to benefit your health long term and may in fact prolong the onset of further complications. By participating in some form of exercise your cells are able to use your body’s insulin more effectively, possibly lowering your blood sugar levels (webMed, 2017). Exercise will also aid in weight control, lower blood pressure, improve sleep and reduce stress, but before undertaking any type of formal exercise it is important to discuss this with your doctor.
Children and Sugar
Over the next few weeks we will be discussing some ways to reduce the sugar intake of, particularly your child, but also yourself. These articles will provide insights as to why we need to reduce our sugar intake and how we can do this by implementing some simple changes. Sugar, as well as the obvious health effects it has on our bodies, also plays with our emotions and our behaviours – especially we are only small. Below are some questions that may indicate that your child may be consuming too much sugar. Ask yourself some of the following questions: Does your child crave sweet foods? Is your child restless or difficult to settle? Is your child easily distracted and can be seen as ‘the clown’ of the group? Is your child overweight? Does your child switch moods quickly? Is your child over-emotional? A basic rundown of how sugar works in your body: When ingested, sugar works its way down the gastro intestinal tube and seeps through the walls of the small intestine which triggers the pancreas to excrete insulin allowing the glucose from the sugar (energy) to be delivered to the cells throughout the body. This is great if only a small amount of natural sugars are consumed. However, if your body has just ingested a white bread sandwich, a muesli bar, a piece of cake and a flavoured milk your body is now overflowing with glucose – hence the sugar high! Because your body is flooded with glucose, the brain releases serotonin to counteract the glucose. Remembering that serotonin is a sleep hormone – hence the sugar crash! Insulin also plays a part in the drama – it blocks the production of leptin (the hunger hormone); the higher your insulin, the hungrier your body feels. So your body is now in a stimulated starvation mode and your brain now informs the rest of the body to begin storing all that extra glucose as belly fat – hence we become overweight. Let’s begin with looking at breakfast: There are so many varieties of sugar packed cereals to choose from that it is no wonder we don’t know how to distinguish between ‘healthy’ and not so healthy, especially when many high sugared varieties are promoted as healthy!! Breakfast cereals are actually one of the most sugar dense products we can give our children, remember that our children should only be consuming no more than 4 added teaspoons of sugar per day. For example, a cereal that is packaged as healthy which includes sultanas and oats contains nearly 35% of the recommended daily intake of sugar for adults, compare that to something that we know is full of sugar and starts with f and ends in loops contains nearly 42% of the recommended daily sugar intake – not that much difference between the ‘bad’ cereal and the ‘good’ cereal. You can begin to see why it is imperative that we read the nutrition labels of the foods we are considering buying. Some better options: A wholesome breakfast needs to contain both protein and complex carbohydrates. If you want to stick to the cereal option choose either a wheat type biscuit (they now come in gluten free options) or simple oats – not flavoured porridge! However, there are other options, particularly on the weekends when we have more time: Avocado smash on grain bread with feta and lemon juice Quinoa and chia porridge with full cream milk Smoked salmon bagel with cream cheese Scrambled eggs on grain toast Mushroom, tomato, capsicum, spinach omelette – try them all together or try them separately Baked beans on grain toast
Cheers to a happy, wholesome breakfast.
These days we are all aware of the dangers of sugar and the role sugar plays in obesity. As well as contributing to obesity, sugar is also responsible for the increasing development of type 2 diabetes. Whilst we as parents try to provide our children with healthy options, often we can get very confused around what is healthy and what is not. Often foods marketed as healthy choices can be full of hidden sugars. For example, let’s take rolled up fruit, which are marketed as ‘real fruit, flat out’, the first ingredient in this product is maltodextrin (from corn or wheat, not fruit!) the third ingredient is sugar which makes up nearly one third of the total product.
Our next example is flavoured milk; again advertisers have made us believe that it is okay to give our children flavoured milk as it is full of nutrients such as calcium, potassium, protein and vitamin D. In a 300ml serving of flavoured milk there are 7 teaspoons of sugar, or just over 28 grams of sugar. A child between the ages of 4 and 6 should have no more sugar than 19 grams for the entire day, an older child between the ages of 7 and 10 should not be consuming any more than 24 grams of sugar in a day. By giving our children one serve of flavoured milk we have already overdosed them with sugar.
A lunch box containing a strap of rolled up 'fruit', a flavoured milk, a nut/chocolate dip, a white bread sandwich and a piece of fruit is going to send a child’s sugar intake through the roof (somewhere around the 80 gram mark). If children consume too much sugar in a short period of time their blood glucose levels shoot up and they have a surge of energy and find it difficult to settle back into classroom routine after play time. A little later in the day their blood sugar levels take a dive and they become tired and irritable. By taking a little extra interest in what we give our children in their lunch boxes we can avoid this situation and provide them with the grounding to become constant, attentive learners whilst also reducing their risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Last week we looked at the benefits of individual fruits, this week we take a closer look at the different roles individual vegetables play in your overall wellbeing. I have also left the fruit section on this page this week for your convenience. Broccoli – broccoli is packed full of vitamins, minerals and beta carotene. It is highly ranked in the world of vegetables as it is full of antioxidants that aid in the prevention of diseases by preventing carcinogens from damaging DNA. Broccoli comes in purple, deep blue-green or green. It should be stored in the refrigerator and can be boiled, steamed or eaten raw – point to mention that by boiling broccoli you lose nearly half the content of vitamin C. Cauliflower – cauliflower is a low calorie vegetable which contains high levels of nutrients, particularly vitamin C and fibre. The fibre in cauliflower helps to promote healthy bowel function, but may cause wind in some people. Store cauliflower in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator and it can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled or deep fried (although not recommended). Carrots – carrots get their bright orange colour from the large amounts of beta carotene – in fact, 1 carrot can supply the body with the total recommended daily intake of vitamin A, which is the vitamin that aids in healthy vision. Carrots are also a good source of fibre. Carrots can be eaten raw or cooked, in fact, this is a rare case where you will absorb more vitamins if it is cooked, as this process breaks down the tough cell walls that the body is unable to break down. Carrots are best stored in the refrigerator and eaten when firm. Peas – There are a variety of peas available, all of which are a good source of thiamin and vitamin C. Thiamin is essential in the maintenance of the central nervous system and aids in energy metabolism. Peas come in the form of the traditional green pea, snow peas or sugar snap peas, when consuming the last 2 varieties the whole pod should be consumed. Green peas may be frozen but it is best to eat snow peas and sugar snap peas fresh. Mushrooms – First and foremost, always purchase mushrooms from a retailer – never eat mushrooms that you have picked from the wild, as there are a wide variety of poisonous mushrooms. Mushrooms are good sources of niacin and potassium. Potassium aids in good blood pressure and helps to control a steady heart beat. Edible mushrooms include brown, button, oyster, shiitake, oyster and field. Mushrooms are best consumed raw or in soups and sauces; try to avoid frying them in butter. Cabbage – As well as containing high levels of vitamin C, cabbage is also high in antioxidants, therefore aiding in the cleanup of free radicals and the prevention of cancers. Also present in this cruciferous vegetable are the vitamins K and E as well as folate, fibre and potassium. Cabbage can be tricky when it comes to losing its vitamin content, for example, as soon as a cabbage is cut it begins to lose vitamin C, therefore try not to prepare the cabbage too long before consumption. There are a variety of cabbages including green, red or purple, savoy, napa or bok choy. Cabbage may be eaten raw or added to soups or even used as replacement to lettuce. Brussels Sprouts – This is another cruciferous vegetable that may also aid in the prevention of cancer. Brussel Sprouts resemble little cabbages and are also a good source of folate and vitamin C. They are best eaten lightly cooked in fast boiling water in an uncovered saucepan. Spinach – almost considered a super food, spinach is particularly good for us and can be used in a variety of ways. Spinach is high in antioxidants, folate and potassium, so like mushrooms, spinach can help to regulate blood pressure and heart beat. Spinach is also well known for its high levels of iron, however, this will only be absorbed if eaten with foods that contain vitamin C. Spinach is so versatile and can be eaten on its own or in salads, pastas, stir fries, omelettes or pizzas. Asparagus – often overlooked, asparagus is a tasty, nutrient dense vegetable. It has a mild laxative effect and therefore may be beneficial when suffering with constipation. It is also packed full of folate and vitamins C and E. It is quick to spoil so therefore it is best consumed fresh or even from a can. Beetroot – beetroot is another of those vegetables that is more nutrient dense when boiled (similar to carrots) due to its low water content. Beetroot is high in folate and therefore promotes healthy cell growth, it is also high in potassium, whilst the leafy tops are high in beta carotene. If an excess of beetroot is consumed pink urine may be discharged – nothing to be alarmed about! Fresh beetroot juice also provides a potent mix of nutrients. Broad Beans – broad beans are actually considered pulses, and need to be handled in a variety of ways, depending on the maturity of the pod. Young beans may be eaten raw and in their entirety, whilst more mature beans must be shelled and cooked before eating. These beans are an excellent source of soluble fibre and therefore may be helpful with bowel disorders or dysfunctions. Broad beans are also a good source of protein which provides the building blocks for our bodies. Potatoes – potatoes are a good source of potassium, protein and fibre, however they are often frowned upon as a ‘not so good’ vegetable – this is probably due to the fact that is high in carbohydrates which are sometimes noted as a food group to avoid, but it can also be due to the way in which we prepare the potato – often it is fried, roasted or covered in some cheesy sauce or cream – if this is the case, well yes, these are to be avoided! However, if the potato is prepared in a boiled or baked manner and is not covered in the toppings mentioned above, it is a good form of nutrients. There are a variety of potatoes on the market; they need to be stored in a dark place and any potato with green on it needs to discarded as this can cause headaches or possible drowsiness.
FRUITS: Bananas – bananas are often referred to as natures snack as they come in their own natural packaging. Bananas are high in potassium which helps with our muscles and nerve function. Bananas are best eaten ripe as green bananas cannot be digested by the small intestine. The sugars from bananas is quickly released into the bloodstream and therefore they can provide an instant energy boost. Keep bananas at room temperature and eat when yellow. Apples – apples are a great healthy snack, and again very convenient. Apples are high in vitamin C and dietary fibre. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that aids in the support and structure of healthy cells, it also has antibacterial and antiviral properties. Vitamin C aids in wound healing and is active in the production of collagen. In addition to apples containing vitamin c they are also high in dietary fibre which makes them a great healthy option. By increasing fibre intake levels you are preventing constipation and other bowel issues, thus allowing an easier passage and expulsion of food. Apples are also a low GI food, thus creating a feeling of fullness for longer periods of time and stabilising blood sugar levels. Apples should be crunchy when bitten into, they can be stored on the shelf or in the fridge. Don’t peel the skin off as this is the part of the apple that contains the most beneficial nutrients! Cherries – Cherries are a good source of potassium, Vitamin C and Vitamin A. Cherries are believed to help the skin look brighter and healthier and they also help in the detoxification of the kidneys. The vitamin a found in cherries promotes good eye health and they are high in antioxidants. Cherries come in hundreds of varieties including sweet and sour. Choose plump cherries and they are best stored in the refridgerator. Strawberries – strawberries contain the largest amount of vitamin c of all the berries. In addition to the role of vitamin c mentioned in apples, vitamin c also aids the absorption of iron from foods, therefore it is recommended that strawberries are eaten after iron rich foods are consumed, this allows for the iron to be drawn out and used by the body. Many children can be allergic to strawberries so exercise caution when serving, however many children grow out of this allergy by age 5. Oranges – everyone knows that oranges are high in vitamin c, however they also contain fibre, thiamine and folate; in fact, thiamine cannot be absorbed by the body unless folate is present in the diet. Thiamine helps in digestion as it aids in the production of hydrochloric acid, it also helps to maintain a ‘normal appetite’ and metabolise carbohydrates, therefore promoting oranges is a fantastic inclusion in your child’s diet. There are many varieties of oranges, choose one that everybody likes and they can be stored either in the fruit bowl or in the refridgerator. Grapes – grapes make a great healthy snack as they are refreshing and very low in calories and packed full of potassium which helps to promote a healthy nervous system. Grapes are best kept in the refridgerator or for something a little different, freeze them and then consume within 20 minutes of taking them out of the freezer. Kiwifruit – another little bundle of goodness packaged by nature! The kiwifruit contains higher levels of vitamin c than an orange – in fact 1 kiwi fruit will give an adult more than the required daily intake of the vitamin. In addition to the vitamin c, the kiwi fruit is also high in soluble fibre that can bring cholesterol levels down by binding to the cholesterol and getting excreted. Kiwifruit can be kept in the fruit bowl, but for longer life they are best kept in the refridgerator; the skin can also be eaten. Plums – plums are a good source of vitamin e, an antioxidant that we don’t hear much about, yet it is essential to life. Vitamin e helps to clean up the free radicals and looks after our red blood cells. Plums are grown over spring and summer and best eaten fresh, although they can be dried or stewed. Melons – there are a variety of melons available including watermelon, rockmelon, champagne melon and honeydew. Rockmelon is the most nutrient dense of all the melons as it contains vitamin c and beta carotene, the other melons all have a high water content therefore are beneficial to healthy kidney function. Peaches – another fruit that is high in vitamin c, therefore promoting healthy cell function and wound healing. Peaches may be helpful in the fight against the common cold as it possesses anti-infective agencies. In addition, peaches are also high in soluble and insoluble fibre and may cause a mild laxative effect. Peaches are best eaten fresh, however they may dried, stewed or canned (if canned, most of the vitamin c is lost). Cranberries – cranberries are high in vitamin c and fibre and they also possess a large amount of flavanoids, which are highly potent antioxidants as well as useful for reduction of inflammation. Cranberries are small pink to dark red berries that may be eaten whole, made into a sauce or pulped to form a juice.
Okay, it’s time to have a look in the pantry. Is the majority of food in your pantry high in sugars and low in nutrients? This is a pretty simple question, with a pretty simple answer. If you answered yes simply have a thorough throw out and re-stock with the complete opposite. You want your pantry filled with items that are low in sugar and salts and high in protein and fibre.
Is the majority of food in your pantry simply pre packaged foods that are simply ready to open and throw into the microwave or lunch box? Another issue that is tied up with today’s busy society, we want and expect most things to be done for us, including the preparation, cooking and packaging of foods. The pre-packaged foods that fill pantries everywhere often contain preservatives and salts that give them a longer shelf life but barely any nutritional value. If you actually took the time to question what went into your child’s lunch box, would you really want some sort of lunch box bar that could possibly stay on the shelf for up to three years without deteriorating, simply because it is that full of additives and preservatives, and any goodness that may once have been in the original product has now been too refined to be recognized? “Is this action enhancing the wellbeing of my child?” Some simple replacement suggestions for your pantry:
Replace pre packaged cake and pancake mixtures with organic flours
Replace snack size packet of chips with veggie chips
Replace refined white sugar with raw sugar
Replace sugary lunch box bars with yoghurt and home made muesli bars
Replace sweet biscuits with plain crackers
Throw out anything that comes in pre-packaged ‘dip’ eg, so called, cheese and crackers – whatever happened to cheese off the block that lived in the refrigerator?
Replace ‘fruit bars’ with actual fruit
Replace any microwave foods that come in a box with the real thing, eg macaroni cheese, meatballs, noodles.
Replace any cakes – particularly pre packaged ones – with homemade sugar free slices and cakes
Replace any tinned or frozen vegetables with the fresh produce
Some simple replacement suggestions for your refrigerator:
Replace highly processed cheese slices with a block of cheese
Replace factory grated cheese with a block of cheese – pre grated cheeses contain anti-caking agents
Replace mousses and jellies with yoghurt
Keep any dessert treats, for eg, frozen cheesecakes, for a special occasion
Swap sugary iceblocks with frozen fruit juice
Replace cordial with chilled water
Buy sandwich meats that have no added preservatives or additives, for eg, ham from the deli section that is straight off the bone.
Keep a constant fresh supply of fruit and vegetables so your children have an easy snack whenever they are feeling peckish.
Keeping in mind the question of “Is this action enhancing the wellbeing of my child?” is it that much more trouble to peel a carrot, cut up some celery or peel a piece of fruit than it is to open a packet of chips?
Let’s look at some of the nasty health issues related with obesity, remembering that whilst your child may only be young, without a healthy diet and lifestyle you are contributing to the attribution of these diseases and health issues.
Coronary Heart Disease What is Coronary Heart Disease? This form of heart disease is very common and often results in heart attack which can lead to death. This condition is caused by blockages in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. The blockages impede the blood moving through the heart and in the case of heart attack the blockage cuts off the flow of blood to the heart altogether. Most people live with Coronary Heart Disease and are only diagnosed after symptoms of chest pain. Obesity and overweight people are far more prone to heart disease than those people who live a healthy lifestyle and maintain healthy eating choices. Whilst this disease cannot be cured measures can be taken to risk further heart problems. These include:
maintaining a healthy body weight
ensuring you are active most days
eating a helathy, balanced diet particularly heavy in fresh foods
giving up or never starting smoking
ensuring your blood pressure is within a healthy range
taking any medication prescribed by your doctor.
I have included the link to Heart Foundation - Healthy Eating site. This site includes tips about salt intake, cholesterol, carbohydrates and sugars, healthy weight and saturated and trans-saturated fats.
Type 2 Diabetes What is diabetes? Diabetes is when the body is unable to produce enough insulin to utilise the glucose in the body and therefore the blood sugar levels remain high within the body and side effects start to take place. There are two types of diabetes and although the symptoms are similar, the treatments and causes vary hugely. Type 1 diabetes requires insulin injections on a daily basis, whilst type 2 diabetes can often be managed by a change in diet and lifestyle. Type 2 diabetes is what we shall focus on from here. What are the causes of type 2 diabetes? Type 2 diabetes is usually linked to lifestyle choices, and people who are overweight or obese have a far greater chance of developing this disease in comparison to someone who weighs in with the correct BMI. Type 2 diabetes develops when the body starts to resist the normal role of insulin, which controls the blood glucose levels within the body. People who are overweight often lead sedimentary lives, which apart from increasing the risk of diabetes, also increases the risk of other major health issues including heart disease and certain cancers. What are the symptoms of diabetes? The recognisable symptoms of diabetes include passing an excessive amount of urine, a dry mouth with excessive, unquenchable thirst, it may also include blurred vision, extreme tiredeness or fatigue. Although these symptoms are prevalent amongst pre-diagnosed sufferers, it is possible to be living with diabetes and not present with any of these symptoms. Complications of diabetes can also arise after a period of time, some of these complications may be short term, whilst some can be long term. In the short term a person may suffer dizziness, sweating, headache, rapid heartbeat, blurry vision, confusion, slurred speech, extreme hunger or poor co-ordination. Some people may not notice any early warning signs.
Long term complications Long term complications of diabetes include cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, eye disorders and foot and leg problems. These complications are due to prolonged periods of high blood sugar and blood flow problems. For people with type 2 diabetes, hopefully their condition can be controlled by a healthy diet with little fats and sugars and a regular exercise regime. However, if it cannot be controlled through these changes, there are some medications available through prescription. Some helpful hints to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes or to help manage the pre-existing condition:
Eat a diet full of starchy foods including breads, potatoes, pasta, rice and oats – these provide the body with starch, fibre, minerals and vitamins.
Ensure you are eating at least 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit each day.
Use low fat milk.
Eat moderate amounts of lean meat and fish – these provide protein and iron.
Reduce intake of fatty foods – choose low fat cooking options and do not add extra fats or butters to prepared meals.
Reduce intake of sugary foods – high sugar foods usually lack nutritional value.
When going to a special event or party eat before hand, then you are not tempted to eat foods that my cause you harm.
Eat slowly and enjoy each mouthful of food.
If eating later than normal, have a light snack.
Times are changing.... When dealing with overweight children and the journey to turn them into healthy, fit little beings, it is imperative to always consider their self esteem and how any reaction or action will affect them and their self image. So, whilst you want your child to be of a healthy weight, you do not want to go ahead with all guns blazing and sit them down and tell them that they are fat and all they can eat for the next however many months is a lettuce leaf. No, let’s not take that approach, let’s try a more gentler approach, and what I have discovered is a w hole family approach to a healthy lifestyle works the best, that way individual children are not been sought out and targeted, and to be honest, what family wouldn’t benefit from an overhaul. Any lifestyle change is not easy and it takes a huge commitment to take responsibility for these positive changes. When making lifestyle changes it is important to remember that results are not immediate, and whilst it may take months to see any positive changes, you and your family will feel better almost immediately. Think about it, if all those toxic foods (or food products) are removed from your daily diet and replaced with fresh, healthy foods, of course your body is going to respond in a positive way and it will become your friend and work better for you. The first and most important change you can make to your family’s health is to cut down, or ultimately, cut out all take away foods, particularly those from the larger, often American chains. If this seems an unreal expectation, restrict this habit to once a week, after a few months, reduce it again to once a fortnight, and then when the family is ready, reduce it again to once a month until the really bad take away becomes something that is only partaken in a few times a year. So there is take away and then there is take away…. There are different levels of take away and often advertisers will promote a ‘bad’ take away as actually a healthy option, this can then make it difficult for the consumer to differentiate between healthy take away and ‘bad’ take away. For example, one of our major burger chains is in bed with ‘The Heart Foundation’, they provide a large sum of sponsorship money and ‘The Heart Foundation’ puts it ‘healthy heart’ tick onto some of the menu options available……………………………………………food for thought. Let’s look at a take away place that makes subs, (which is often considered a 'healthy choice' in the world of take away meals). The breads at this establishment contain so much sugar that they really should be classified as cakes. This sub restaurant have great advertisers who put subliminal messages into their advertising campaigns, for example a few years ago they put bookends with D and R in one of their ads, hoping that people's subconscious may be thinking that this food was endorsed by doctors. Both of these take away establishments also have smart sponsorship programs, the Olympic athletes of the 2012 London Olympics, as well as sponsoring ‘The Biggest Loser’ television program for several years.
Is this action enhancing the wellbeing of my child? Every action has a reaction, ask yourself “Is this action enhancing the wellbeing of my child?” Think about a typical day in your household, does it start with a sugary, low nutrient breakfast or does it begin with a high calcium, high fibre option with low sugar? Breakfast is by far one of the easiest ways to get your child eating some healthy foods and making some small positive steps to an overall healthier lifestyle. A sugary cereal can simply be replaced with a high fibre cereal, topped with some fresh fruit and natural yoghurt to maintain a level of sweetness. Or you could cook up some spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes and eggs - what a great way to start the day! Initially you may be met with some grizzles and groans, but before long the children will be used to and enjoying the new, more nutritious start to the day, as long as you, the parent are willing to follow through! At the end of the day do you and your children sit in front of the television to wind down? What better way to de-stress from the day but to go for a casual walk after dinner. Here in Australia we are spoilt, not only with our weather, but also our longer days in most states. The kids can go for an after dinner bike ride whilst you are setting a great example by walking with them. Whatever you choose to do after dinner, don’t forget to ask yourself “Is this action enhancing the wellbeing of my child?” Is my child happy this size? This is a tough question and hopefully you will answer it honestly. Think about it again – ‘Is my child happy being overweight?’ Does your child enjoy going to the beach, does your child enjoy running around with his/her friends, will your child get undressed in front of you? Often overweight children opt out of fun activities because of their weight – they may not be fit enough to handle the activity, they may be too big to sit in the go kart or they may not have the confidence to tackle an awkward situation if it presented itself. Many children who are overweight can often experience feelings of alienation from their peers, they may suffer with low self esteem and some may even suffer with depression because of their weight issue. As a parent there is nothing more heart breaking than seeing your child unhappy or victimised or becoming socially inept, but this problem can be fixed and we can start raising happy, healthy and fit children ready to take on the world. We just need to be honest with ourselves and take control of the situation. Is my child fit? The most obvious answer to this question is a blanket ‘no’ response! Can your child run around the school oval without stopping, can they swim 50 meters without stopping, can they handle a game of school basketball? An ‘average’ 7 year old child should be able to manage all these physical tasks with a minimal rise in heartbeat and a quick recovery time.
What are we doing to our Kids?
In order to help your child you must understand the reasons behind your child’s weight issue. In order to do this some confronting questions must be asked and answered honestly. You may not like the answers but if you want to help your child you need to have a look beyond the simple issue of over eating and ask questions like, why is my child overeating? In order for you to be successful in this section you must answer all the questions openly and honestly. So grab a pen and let’s get started! Let’s begin with the most confronting question - Why is your child overweight? It is important that you don’t just look for excuses when answering this question, for example, Harry spends all his time on the computer, Jane is always looking for chips in the cupboard. Spend a little time thinking about why Harry is always on the computer - is he given opportunities to play with his friends, ride his bike, join a team sport, walk to the playground, go camping? Why is Jane always hungry? Does it stem from boredom, is she given the same opportunities as mentioned above? What is Jane eating at meal times that is not providing her with a feeling of fullness? Are your children doing exactly what you do when you get home? Are they sitting in front of the computer or TV or are they outside grabbing some fresh air and maybe burning a few calories at the same time. Have you taken responsibility for your child’s nutrition or is your child dictating their wants to you? Do you provide enough nutritious food during the day? At the end of your day, you are tired, can you be bothered preparing a home- cooked, freshly prepared meal? Is your child overweight because of your bad habits? Take away and pre prepared foods are everywhere in our society these days and many people look on them as an easy and quick option to provide food for their family without considering the nutritious value of the meal or the long term effects of these foods over a period of time. More often than not if children are given a choice they will choose a take away meal that lacks any nutritional value and contributes to high fat and salt intakes. What changes can you make to enhance your child’s health and reduce their chances of diabetes, heart disease or stroke? If you have answered the previous questions with an open and honest heart you are now ready to make some changes to your child’s health. Grab your pen again and make a list of lifestyle changes you and your family can make to improve everyone’s health. Here are a few to get you started:
Get active - walk instead of taking the car everywhere
Reduce the amount of take away and pre-prepared foods consumed
Become a good role model - don’t gravitate towards the TV
Join a local sporting club
Sign up for a local fun run or walk
Take the dog for a walk
Jump on the trampoline
Obesity can affect all areas of a person's life including emotional, social and obviously physical. A person with a basal metabolic index (BMI) of over 30 is considered to be obese, however, there are many other factors and influences that contribute to a person becoming obese. Our lifestyle is a major contributing factor to the obesity crisis. Meals are readily available through drive-thru windows or pre-packaged meals can be bought at the supermarket which simply require a few minutes in the microwave, these meals tend to lack nutritional value and are often high in saturated fats and sugars. The way we eat and prepare foods has changed over time and these days it is acceptable to drink your breakfast from a box, in the car, on the way to work, as a decline in home prepared meals is taking place due to our lives becoming busier. In addition to these factors there are also far more 'snack' options available today. Many people would prefer to snack on chips, biscuits or a chocolate bar as opposed to reaching for a piece of fresh fruit. People also tend to choose a variety of pre-packaged drinks, rather than simply quenching their thirst with water. These 'snack' options can lead to easy weight gain as they are calorie dense and again they tend to lack any great nutritional value. Since when did a packet of crisps and an ice-cream become dinner items, rather than rare treats? Unfortunately this is where so many parents are going wrong, with time constraints, limited knowledge around healthy choices and the ever enticing world of commercials, sadly our children are eating these exact foods for lunch and dinner and sometimes even breakfast. Sadly, I recently had a child in my class who had consumed a large frozen coke before she came to school at 8:15a.m.
Another cause of obesity is simply inactivity. Many people do not participate in any form of regular exercise. Modern technology has helped to make us lazy. People would rather take the car than walk close distances, they would rather take the lift than the stairs, children in particular would rather play computer games than play outside, people go to the football to watch rather than join the local club as a player. If we spent more time getting active and physical we could burn up more energy and perhaps less obesity would exist - life is about participating not watching from the sidelines!
As a teacher I see too many children who are struggling with weight issues and the issue of being unfit, I see how it directly impacts on their self esteem and in some extreme cases can lead to depression. Depression in our children – is that what we really want to see happen to the next generation? I for one certainly don’t want to see a generation of fat, overweight, food dependent children who get caught up in the cycle of self destructive eating habits due to their pre-existing weight condition. It is time to say NO to bad eating habits! It is time to say NO to lazy eating habits! It is time to say YES to healthy, fresh food and YES to regular exercise and finally, YES to living a great, full life!!! The thing about obesity that I am struggling with and have done for many years is ‘how does a person get so big?’. Then I started to have a look around me and noticed what people were eating and at what times of the day they were eating particular foods, for example, I recently saw an obese woman sitting outside a delicatessen with a large iced coffee and a pasty, what’s wrong with that you may ask, well it wasn’t even 9 o’clock in the morning! This woman resonated with me all day, surely she knew she was overweight and surely she knew that eating any pastries was not going to help her in her battle of obesity, particularly if she is choosing them as breakfast items. As I reflected on this woman throughout the day I began to question whether she did not know that her eating habits were not conducive to a healthy lifestyle, maybe that was just the way she was brought up and as an adult she continues to have a complete disregard for her own health and wellbeing. The important question followed – ‘What if this woman had children of her own?’ – this became a very scary option for me as perhaps she was breeding a whole new generation of fat kids. Unfortunately there is a growing number of children in Australian society that are having to shop in adult clothes stores, or even worse, big man or big lady stores. An important part of obesity and the often inability to break the cycle, comes down to a simple choice – ‘Do you want your child to be depressed, helpless, teased and bullied by others?’ OR ‘Do you want your child to have the freedom to run around, join a team sport, wear clothes designed to fit children and to live a happy and healthy life?’ Choose wisel