Side­line the snacks

Wanneroo Weekender - - Opinion - – Dr Ruth Wal­lace, lec­turer in Edith Cowan Univer­sity’s School of Med­i­cal and Health Sciences

THE eat­ing habits de­vel­oped by young chil­dren can fol­low them into ado­les­cence and adult­hood.

The en­vi­ron­ment in which they learn these eat­ing habits plays a sig­nif­i­cant role in their fu­ture health and well­be­ing.

It is vi­tal then that the more than 1.2 mil­lion Aus­tralian chil­dren who at­tend early learn­ing ser­vices have ac­cess to healthy foods from the five core food groups – veg­eta­bles, ce­re­als/grains, dairy, meat and fruit, and that dis­cre­tionary, or “junk” foods are not served.

How­ever, data from the Sup­port­ing Nu­tri­tion for Aus­tralian Child­care (SNAC) study found that dis­cre­tionary foods – typ­i­cally pro­cessed foods high in sat­u­rated fat and/or added sug­ars or salt, such as pro­cessed meats (e.g., sausages, salami), sweet bis­cuits, some cakes and crack­ers, are served far too of­ten.

Opin­ions about how of­ten lack of nu­tri­tious food and over-pro­vi­sion of dis­cre­tionary foods can hin­der chil­dren’s phys­i­cal, so­cial and emo­tional de­vel­op­ment.

We also know that the one in four chil­dren who are cur­rently over­weight or obese face a higher risk of de­vel­op­ing car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease as adults.

Early learn­ing ser­vices are there­fore a per­fect set­ting to en­cour­age good eat­ing habits in chil­dren which will help them lead health­ier lives as adults.

It may seem a daunt­ing task for early years’ ed­u­ca­tors to tackle the some­times sen­si­tive is­sue of pro­vid­ing dis­cre­tionary foods, but help is avail­able at www.snacwa.com.au .

This is a free re­source, of­fer­ing recipes, nu­tri­tion ac­tiv­i­ties and sup­port to early years’ ed­u­ca­tors.

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