Your kids' health is closely related to the prenatal care. Before conception and during pregnancy, women should pay close attention to their eating habits; they are the only source of nutrition for the fetus. Therefore, Children born underweight tend to have cognitive disabilities, which affects their performance in school and as adults. Pregnant women should moderate their nutritional habits so that the majority of the calories consumed come from nutritious foods; this is one of the best and easiest things to do for the baby’s growth, development and future health.
A healthy, varied and well-balanced diet is enough to cover all mother’s and baby’s nutritional needs, with the exception of certain vitamins and minerals, i.e. folic acid and iron, which are harder to obtain from food in the amounts required during pregnancy. Doctors usually recommend a prenatal supplement with these nutrients.
We eagerly advise you to consult a clinical dietitian so she can follow up with you throughout preconception, pregnancy, post delivery and lactation periods to amend your eating patterns and adjust your changing nutritional needs.
During school years, children and adolescents experience great physical, psychological and social development. Special attention to energy and nutrient requirements is critical during this period; It helps assure the development is normal. Many of these requirements are met during school hours; thus, establishing a safe environment that supports healthy behaviors is particularly a critical role for the parents as well as Schools’ canteens.
Schools are responsible to provide opportunities for students to learn and practice healthy eating and physical activity behaviors instead of encouraging sedentary lifestyle and intake of low nutrient energy-dense food items sold on their premises: i.e. croissants, donuts and cookies, chips and fried foods, manakish, canned juices, soft drinks etc…
Moreover, childhood obesity is one of the most challenging public health disorders of the 21st century. It almost tripled for children and quadrupled for adolescents in the past 30 years.
The nutritional status of the Lebanese population is characterized by a nutrition transition with the emergence of a high prevalence of overweight in all age groups, both in rural and urban areas.
During the past decades, access to affordable traditional varied and energy-dense local foods as well as “westernized” types of diets, including sugar, fat and salt-rich processed foods have drastically increased (FAO). These changes in food consumptions lead to higher risks of overweight and obesity among kids and adolescents.
Overweight and obesity are a complex issue; poor nutritional choices, genetics, family history and physical inactivity are all significant contributing factors. Studies confirm that if both parents are obese, a child’s chance of becoming obese is about 80%.
Childhood obesity has both immediate and long-term effects on health. Children and adolescents who are obese will probably become obese adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Early heart disease
- Sleep apnea
- Menstrual dysfunction
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia and diabetes
- Osteoarthritis, bone and joint problems
- Skin conditions such as heat rash, fungal infections, and acne
Psychological effects: obese children are more prone to low self-esteem, stress, negative body image, and depression. Kids with a negative body image feel more self-conscious, anxious and isolated. They avoid sometimes participating in sports since they feel themselves too slow and too clumsy, or because they are the last ones picked for teams because of their weights. They are at greater risk of excessive weight gain and eating disorders. Also, overweight at young ages has been linked to higher and earlier death rates in adulthood.
Lebanon will face an epidemic of obesity-related illnesses, if adults, adolescents, and children continue to put on weight, according to two national obesity surveys carried out by AUB.
Therefore, providing a nutrient dense eating program tailored for every age, and prevention of childhood obesity should be a major concern!
Another reason as to why nutrition is so important for children is their lack of knowledge about the subject. Unfortunately, foods and snacks with the best taste are usually the worst, and children will almost always choose junk food over fruits and vegetables, which lead to certain deficiencies: Lebanese children and adolescents in particular have suboptimal levels of calcium and vitamin D in their diet during a critical time of skeletal development, which are vital for strong bones and teeth. Iron deficiency anemia is also common in Lebanese children and lack of iron rich food during childhood also leads to iron deficiency; responsible of developmental delays and behavioral disturbances.
Providing the right nutrition for children and most importantly teaching them about healthy eating will help them prepare for a life of proper eating and nutrition leading to a longer, healthier life.
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