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Op-Ed: Parents should do more to get kids to eat more fruits, vegetables Special

By Sam Halaby     Jun 22, 2011 in Health
Statistics Canada reported that only 43 per cent of Canadians over 12 years old ate fruits and vegetables more than five times daily in 2010. This is down from 46 per cent the year before, the lowest number in the last decade.
When I visit my parents on Sunday afternoons for dinner, my stepmother often prepares very healthy meals, low in saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium.
It’s common practice for my younger brother, who turns nine years old next month, load his plate with a few pieces of meat, and be forced to eat the very little salad and even fewer roasted vegetables. My stepmother knows that, while he is active, his eating habits need much improvement.
After eating a few bites, he will declare that he is full, and leave the table to help himself to a snack. This usually consists of either chocolate chip cookies, potato chips, or a chocolate bar, loaded with sugar and saturated fats.
These poor eating habits start young, so the best time to start educating children is when they are under the age of 12.
As part of a community health poll from 2010, Statistics Canada reported that only 43 per cent of Canadians over 12 years old ate fruits and vegetables more than five times daily. This is down from 46 per cent the year before, the lowest number in the last decade.
The survey polled 65,000 Canadians on a number of topics, including smoking, stress, and obesity.
Females of all age groups polled (12 and older) were found more likely than men to consume fruits and vegetables.
While one analyst says that the price increase of produce on the Canadian Price Index jumped two per cent last year, the rising price of gas and tobacco doesn’t curb consumption, so why should it with fruits and vegetables?
This rate can change significantly if parents put more effort into changing their children’s eating habits at an early age. This includes avoiding snacks and beverages loaded with sugar, sodium, and carbohydrates.
In addition to flashy marketing and packaging, some may blame lack of time and indifference to purchasing junk food over preparing healthier meals and snacks. Giving a child an apple, banana, or a container filled with pre-cut baby carrots instead of a snack cake, chocolate bar or potato chips requires little additional effort, and could do much more for that child’s health.
Huma Malik, a mother of three aged 9, 14 and 16, says that while it is difficult to manage healthy eating habits while working full-time and raising children, she tries as much as possible to curb those habits in small ways.
One way she mentions she gets her kids to eat healthier is to leave out a bowl of mixed fruit into a bowl before the weekend begins, to avoid having them grab an unhealthy snack during the weekend.
Not all children have metabolisms that work hard enough to burn off excess calories, so the heavy intake of sugar (carbohydrates) and fats (both saturated and trans-) often leads to chronic health issues later in life, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
This applies especially if the child doesn’t engage in activity, such as exercise and sports. Although my brother does play a great deal of basketball, it’s hard to separate him from his video game console on cold or rainy days. While these provide hours of visual stimulation and entertainment, there isn’t much physical activity involved.
Malik says that while it may be more difficult to get her teens away from computer and video games, she encourages her nine-year-old daughter to play soccer.
In this day and age of “here and now”, it’s easy to compromise future consequences with present convenience. Attention, precaution, and time must all be taken to consider the health risks associated with poor eating habits.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Health canada, Statistics canada, Fruits and vegetables, Healthy lifestyle, Healthy eating
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