The Obesity Epidemic – Finding the point in the life cycle to intervene.
As we continue to hear about the obesity problems of children, teens and adults, it is clear to me that it is a vicious circle without a definitive time in a human’s life to intercede and correct the course we seem to be on.
Obesity is one of those health issues that is complex with physical, mental and emotional elements. In my career over the last twenty years, I have worked with teenagers and young adults whose obesity can be laid firmly at the door of industrialised food, sugars and the fast food industry. However, it is not just about what they are eating today, but in many cases what their mother ate even before they were born, during her pregnancy and in the recommended (by health professionals included) new born formulas and baby foods.
At twenty-five years old, I found myself responsible for the nutritional health of 120 boys and girls (8-13) in a private school. This was over 40 years ago and the industrialised food industry was already well established. I had been cooking for my own business for the previous two years often preparing lunches for 100 hungry lunchtime customers. On my arrival at the school, I found that because there had not been a cook in residence for a term, the majority of meals were frozen entrees that contained 10 portions. The container was placed on each table of students and it was served up by a prefect. There were some potatoes and a vegetable served with it but it was not the best option nutritionally. The headmaster and his wife recognised this, hence my arrival.
Within the month I had done deals with local farmers for fresh eggs and fruit, and was buying meats, chicken and fresh vegetables, with only the staples such as rice, flour, pasta etc being delivered in a packet. I also introduced the children to some more adult foods such as beef bourguignon and Coq au Vin.. which did lead to calls for ‘more of the sauce please’!
They all had a cooked breakfast each day as well as a bowl of porridge or weetabix. I got cooking 140 (with staff) fried eggs in six pans in 15 minutes, down to a fine art, at the same time as grilling 140 pieces of wholegrain toast, Lunches were meat, chicken and fish on Fridays (with some sauces or gravy), with plenty of vegetables, and either rice, pasta or potatoes. There would be a hot pudding such as apple pie and custard. There was a high tea with sandwiches or beans on toast, or sardines etc, with cake and fruit. There was cocoa before they went to bed. I would finish the day with 10 – 20 staff cooked suppers.
I had the cook from scratch approach to food even then, and even more importantly, as far as the school bursar was concerned. I shaved £2,000 off the catering budget in the first term. Forty years ago that was a substantial amount of money and proves that even then, packaged food is not only nutritionally inadequate (particularly for growing children) but far more expensive than the cook from scratch approach.
So combined with my work as a nutritional therapist in the last twenty years, I can draw on 45 years experience of working with food and all age groups from pre-conception to 95, to witness the impact of nutrition on the body, and the diseases directly related to diet.
The list grows rapidly as research lays the cause of at least 75% of diseases at the door marked lifestyle.
When do you intervene in the life cycle, to counteract what is fast becoming a life threatening epidemic, and increasingly a huge burden on the health services?
When do you try to break the cycle?
It is actually too late to start at birth, since the food the mother has consumed prior to becoming pregnant, and during the nine months will have a lifelong impact on her child’s weight and health. ( I will cover fertility and pre-pregnancy diet later in the series)
If the mother to be is already overweight, consuming in excess of recommended daily intakes of sugar and unhealthy fats from industrially manufactured foods, immediately that she becomes pregnant, that will result in an unhealthy start to the fetal development.
During pregnancy, if the mother does not drastically reduce these two components of her diet, and introduce health alternatives such as good fats, plenty of fresh vegetables and some fruit, moderate carbohydrates and protein from lean meat, poultry, fish, and adequate vegetable sources, the baby will be born already addicted to sugars and undernourished.
Breastfeeding a baby is as natural as you can get, and for millions of years that was the norm. And immediately after birth is a critical phase, when the vital immune boosting Colostrum is produced by a new mother for the next 48 hours. This encourages the digestive system to begin functioning, kick starts the immune system to protect from viral and bacterial infections as well as providing essential nutrients.
Breastfeeding is now at its lowest in the UK for a number of reasons, including ‘expert’ insistence on getting a baby into a feeding and sleep routine as quickly as possible, rather than every two hours that the lower volume breast feeding requires. Also there is the social stigma of breastfeeding in public places. To be fair, it does require some discretion, but every woman should be able to breastfeed her baby when it is needed. Since that is usually every two hours, it is difficult to manage if you are outside of your home environment.
It used to be that babies would be breastfed until they were 18 months old, and in some cases older, especially if supplemental to a restricted access to food. Now it seems that six months is the average, with only 1 in 200 women breastfeeding their baby after a year old.
There are of course mother’s who cannot breastfeed physically, and this means feeding the baby with one of the many formulas on the market.
This is where the multi-billion baby food industry kicks in to take advantage of this reduction in providing a baby with its most natural food, and according to a recent report, if your baby was already addicted to sugars at birth, you can satisfy any cravings with sugar laden jars of pureed baby foods. In addition many will contain the highly unhealthy corn syrup.
That combination of added sugar and corn syrup in baby formula is the number one cause of obesity in babies and children
‘Research by the World Health Organisation suggest there are an additional 124 million children and adolescents worldwide. While just under 1% of children and adolescents aged 5-19 were obese in 1975, more 124 million children and adolescents (6% of girls and 8% of boys) were obese in 2016′
These additives and other chemical elements such as preservatives, continue to be introduced into the diet when babies are weaned onto pureed foods and then semi-solids.
I am afraid that however many times it says on the tin of formula or on the jar of baby food that it is all natural, it does not necessarily mean healthy natural food that our baby will thrive on. The sugar began life as natural as did the corn sugar but they are mutated by the time they get into the food chain to toxic elements.
They do not have any place in a baby’s diet nor adults for that matter.
The trouble is that marketing ‘experts’ will tell you that you are safe feeding your baby their formula and semi-solids.. but what about the nutritional experts?
A good start was made in Europe when all sugar sweetened formulas were banned in 2009. There are now a more brands that are using lactose to sweeten and the number of organic brands of formula are on the increase. However, for many new mothers, especially those on a budget, the price of these healthier forumula’s is much higher than the highstreet brands.
Here is a post on organic brands, but I do suggest that you check them out the reviews of the products: https://mommyhood101.com/best-organic-baby-formula
Homemade baby food
I know that immediately there are going to be issues of time and convenience brought up.. But having checked the cost of jars of baby food and their contents, I can say with certainty that you can produce a week’s worth of baby food, from scratch that is healthier and cheaper than any on the shelves, and in less time than it takes you to do the weekly shop! More about that later in the post.
Parents are being ‘misled’ by baby food companies marketing sugar-packed baby meals and snacks as healthy, new report warns
Analysis of thousands of baby products showed high levels of added sugar
WHO Europe said it’s a danger for babies’ teeth and could lead to obesity
More than 30 per cent of calories in half of the products came from sugars
Sugars accounted for 70 per cent of the food calories in fruit purees
The World Health Organisation has called for a ban on added sugar in baby food and warned against ‘misleading’ health claims on labels.
Analysis of thousands of baby products in Europe, such as pouches and jars, revealed high levels of sugar across the board, even in savoury products.
It could cause baby teeth to rot and increase the risk of obesity and related diseases by giving the child a ‘sweet tooth’, the WHO warned.
Even though some sugars are naturally present in fruits and vegetables, it’s a ’cause of concern’ that more is added, a report said.
The organisation is one of many which have recently urged a wipe-out of added sugars and sweeteners in foods for children under three years of age.
You can read the rest of the post HERE
There are a number of sites that provide a step by step guide to weaning a baby from the bottle at six months but I notice that on many of them their first preference is fruit juice and then pureed fruit.
- I would prefer to see this list vegetable led and you can make a clear vegetable soup by cooking carrots, broccoli, sweet potato, courgettes (zucchini) and parsnips together, keeping the water they are cooked and sieving out the juice from the vegetables…don’t add salt or sugar. Then as the baby moves onto semi-solids you can puree the vegetables themselves. You can freeze in portions making enough for several days.
- Avocados are excellent as a first food at six months as they contain healthy fats and a quarter of a medium avocado is great fist sized healthy addition to the baby’s diet.
- If you do give your baby fruit juice try apple without any added sugar and the same with pureed apple.
- Pears are also good to introduce as they are one of the least allergenic fruit.
- Papaya and bananas are also easy to digest and bananas are useful to take with you when traveling as well as to ease any stomach upsets.
- Baby porridge makes a good start to the day, and you can also introduce well cooked baby rice into the savoury dishes.
- From seven months you can start to add some pureed chicken or cod.
I found this website which lists the top ten mother and baby sites including one that has some great baby food recipes: http://newparent.com/mom/10-best-parenting-websites
Here is just one of the videos on Youtube where mothers share their organic recipes and tips for first baby foods and as you will see towards the end of the video – the equivalent amount organic baby food in the supermarket works out at three times as much as the homemade, and despite being organic the shop bought will still have preservatives added. Uploaded by DoItOnaDimeFAMILY
If you are like me and of an age where pureed food might be an option in a few years!!! Then please pass this on to the younger generation who might help to turn around this tide of obesity that is sweeping our countries.
I am aware that many young mothers will still follow the path of using the cheapest formula and baby food options on the shelf through necessity, but I hope that education through the prenatal and new mother classes will help them discover the healthier and often cheaper options and how to give their babies a great start in life.
Next week – Breakfast clubs, School meals, Domestic Science and meals at home.
©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2019
My nutritional background
I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.
If you would like to browse by health books and fiction you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/
As always delighted to get your feedback and questions. This is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s presence in your life. But, certainly in the UK, where you are allocated ten minutes for a consultation and time is of the essence; going in with some understanding of how your body works and is currently functioning can assist in making a correct diagnosis.
Some doctors believe that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. However, I believe that understanding our bodies, how it works, how we can help prevent health problems and knowing the language that doctors speak, makes a difference. Taking responsibility for our bodies health is the first step to staying well.
Thanks for stopping by… as always your feedback is welcomed.. thanks Sally.