Time to re­think the 5-a-day plan

Why you should re­con­sider the 5-a-day plan for chil­dren

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE -

Just when you’d man­aged to get the kids eat­ing their five-a-day fruit and veg, and cut­ting down on sat­u­rated fat, a new book is claim­ing that’s not quite the right way to go. A trio of ex­perts in­sist that while veg­eta­bles are in­deed good for kids, fruit should only be eaten in mod­er­a­tion, but they can eat as much but­ter and cheese as they like. The book, which fea­tures plenty of healthy, low-su­gar recipes for chil­dren, iden­ti­fies three ‘golden rules’ for chil­dren’s eat­ing.

The rules are sim­ply: no added su­gar; no re­fined carbs; keep it real.


Chef Jonno Proud­foot, who wrote the book Super Food For Su­per­chil­dren with sport and ex­er­cise sci­en­tist Pro­fes­sor Tim Noakes and pae­di­atric di­eti­tian Brid­get Sur­tees, says: “If au­thor­i­ties sug­gest five fruits and five veg­eta­bles are the same thing, I think they’ve made the rules too sim­ple.

“Five fruits is cer­tainly bet­ter than five cokes, but five vegetable por­tions will be in­fin­itely bet­ter. I think five-a-day could live har­mo­niously within this realm of eat­ing, pro­vided it was five veg­gies and oc­ca­sional fruit.” As for the long-de­monised sat­u­rated fat, the au­thors in­sist early stud­ies sug­gest­ing ‘sat­u­rated fat is bad’ were “flawed and con­tra­dic­tory”, point­ing out that the ar­gu­ment that sat­u­rated fat raises blood choles­terol con­cen­tra­tions, which di­rectly cause heart dis­ease, is “at best a gross over­sim­pli­fi­ca­tion and at worst just plain wrong”, and chil­dren need fats for healthy growth and devel­op­ment.


Re­fined carbs are car­bo­hy­drates that have been bro­ken down dur­ing food pro­cess­ing. A good ex­am­ple of a re­fined carb is flour, which is cre­ated when a grain, usu­ally wheat, is finely ground. This re­moves the fi­brous outer layer, which con­tains most of its vi­ta­mins and min­er­als, and the re­main­ing glu­cose spikes blood glu­cose lev­els, says the book, while pro­vid­ing lit­tle or no nu­tri­tional value.

The au­thors point out that if a child eats a bowl of su­gar-coated rice-based ce­real, for ex­am­ple, the re­fined carbs in the rice will break down to su­gar too, so the child ef­fec­tively eats a bowl of su­gar.


It’s been known for decades that high su­gar con­sump­tion causes den­tal prob­lems and is a cause of obe­sity, says the book, which points out that su­gar of­fers no nu­tri­tional ben­e­fit, but is ad­dic­tive and too much over the long-term can lead to health prob­lems in­clud­ing di­a­betes, and com­pli­ca­tions linked to obe­sity in­clud­ing heart dis­ease and strokes.


Real, non-pro­cessed whole foods are the ba­sis of healthy eat­ing, says the book, point­ing out that pro­cessed foods are packed with su­gars and re­fined carbs, plus var­i­ous ad­di­tives “that re­ally shouldn’t be pass­ing through your child’s body”.


If this new way of eat­ing seems daunt­ing, Proud­foot says in­tro­duc­ing it grad­u­ally is a lot bet­ter than not do­ing it at all.

“It would be best to dive right in, but there can only be ben­e­fits to re­mov­ing even the small­est amounts of su­gar and re­fined carbs from one’s diet,” he ex­plains.

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