According to the government of Canada's public health survey, a whopping 30% of our kids (aged 5 to 17) are obese or overweight, putting them at risk of asthma, type II diabetes, and heart disease. A recent report commissioned by the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada and conducted by the University of Montreal, has revealed that 48.3 per cent of Canadians’ daily caloric intake comes from ultra-processed, highly refined foods. What's worse? Our children are eating even more refined sugar and processed foods than we are! The report notes that kids aged nine to 13 are the largest consumers of refined sugar and processed foods, which account for nearly 60% of their daily calories. Source: https://globalnews.ca/news/3898015/canada-kids-processed-food/
Healthy eating habits start with mom and dad. It's no secret that young kids adopt the eating habits of their parents - once unhealthy habits are formed, they are heard to break. Having an obese parent puts kids at significantly greater risk of becoming obese themselves, the same is true whether the mother or the father is obese. According to research, kids of obese parents are not only more likely to become obese themselves but are also more likely to experience social problems at school. As parents, we all do our best. Every mother and father wants their child to be happy, healthy, and free of chronic disease. So why are our kids eating so much junk food?
Along with being low in fibre and high in refined sugar, highly processed, refined foods are also often high in unhealthy fat, especially saturated and trans fats, and are often dangerously high in sodium and other preservatives. It probably comes as no surprise that diets high in refined foods are linked to a host of chronic health conditions including obesity, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, macular degeneration, cancer and diabetes. What you may have not known, however, is that refined sugar and processed foods are also linked to a condition known as "food addiction". Click here to learn more about food addiction. Does your family need a refined sugar detox? Join thousands of challenge participants in ditching refined sugar for 30 days.
In a study titled, “Which Foods May Be Addictive? The Roles of Processing, Fat Content, and Glycemic Load” published in the Public Library of Science peer-reviewed open access scientific journal, it was found that highly processed foods share pharmacokinetic properties (e.g. concentrated dose, rapid rate of absorption) with drugs of abuse. This is due to the addition of fat and/or refined carbohydrates and the rapid rate the refined carbohydrates are absorbed into the system, indicated by glycemic load. The study notes that not all foods are equally implicated in addictive-like eating behavior. Highly processed foods that are high in fat and glycemic load - including high sugar foods - are more frequently associated with “food addiction”.
How does the process of refining work anyway?
In refining a grain, the bran and the germ portions on the outside are removed. Unfortunately, refining often produces foods containing very little nutrition. What is lost with the bran and the germ of a grain is fibre, magnesium, B vitamins, iron, zinc, antioxidants (like vitamin E) and selenium – as well as other important phytochemicals (chemicals existing naturally in plants) - the nutrients in the food that help reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
In the case of sugar, the refining process refers to filtering sugar cane or beets until the desired material (the sugar crystal) is obtained - the finished product has very little nutritional value. In the case of most commercially packaged foods (like bread, breakfast cereals, cereal bars and white pasta) vitamins and minerals have to be added back into the product - giving you a "fortified" food. Getting your micronutrient content from fortified foods is similar to getting your micronutrients from a vitamin pill. It's not the same as getting these nutrients from natural whole food sources.
Furthermore, foods that have been refined tend to break down shortly after being consumed, resulting in a spike, and then a sudden dip in blood sugars - this leaves us feeling hungry within a short period of consuming the food and craving for more refined foods. Dr. Farrell Cahill comments on food addiction.
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8 steps to a healthier family
1. Stick to whole, fresh foods and limit meals that come in packages to one or two meals per week if in a pinch. Eat fresh vegetables with every meal, and always opt for whole grains vs. white grain products (white bread, white rice, white pasta). Experiment with grains like barley or quinoa; and use steel-cut oats in place of “instant” or “quick” oats to boost fibre. Try to include legumes and plant-based protein in your family meals a few times per week, eat raw nuts and seeds as snacks and chose natural nut butters (not the peanut butter that's packed with sugar and hydrogenated oil) and, lastly, eat whole fruit instead of fruit sauce or commercial packaged fruit cups. When it comes to sauces, make homemade sauces and dressings instead of buying bottled.
2. Use the "plate method". Fill up half your plate with vegetables at every meal, before adding any other foods to your plate. When your kids get home from school have fresh cut raw vegetables and fruit handy as snacks - you wont have to worry about your kids ruining their appetite for dinner if they are feasting on celery and cucumber sticks. The more you and your family fill up on natural high-fibre, nutrient-dense foods the less room there is for refined, processed, calorie-dense indulgences.
3. When you eat bread, chips, or crackers, look for words like “sprouted grain”, “whole grain” or “stone ground” - read the whole ingredient list, not just the label. Try experimenting with raw flat breads or homemade superfood crisps like Medisys dietitian Crystal Higgins’ sweet & savoury maple cinnamon kale crisps.
5. When baking, replace each 1 cup of white flour with 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour and 1/4 cup of seeds and nut meals such as flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, salba, wheat germ, ground almond meal, or psyllium husks.
6. When buying packaged goods, on the “Nutrition Facts” table, look for foods that are high in fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals and low in added sugar, salt, and saturated and trans fats. Compare the labels of similar products and this will give you an idea of the most nutritious products out there.
7. Do not go over 3-4 hours without eating a meal or snack. If you let yourself get ravenous, you’ll likely crave unhealthy, refined foods. That said, treat snacks as mini balanced meals - include a protein and a fibre source and limit snacks to about 150-200 Calories.
8. Use the 80:20 rule. Encourage your family to follow healthy eating guidelines 80% of the time, and allow yourselves flexibility 20% of the time.
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