Test shows junk food is just not on for your kids

2014-07-13 15:01

If you want your children to stop being couch potatoes these holidays, ban them from eating potato chips and give them a baked potato instead.

A new study reveals that junk food not only makes people fatter, it also breeds laziness and demotivation.

A study recently published in the journal Physiology?& Behavior showed how badly laboratory rats were affected by processed and junk food?–?and dieticians warn that the same is true for humans.

Scientists at the University of California, LA (UCLA) divided 32 female rats into two groups of 16 each.

One group ate processed junk food for three months and the other 16 were fed unprocessed food like ground maize.

The junk food-eating rats gained weight steadily ­during the experiment. When the rodents were set a task, they performed far worse than their leaner

counterparts, taking breaks that were nearly twice as long as the trimmer rats.

The rodents’ organ structure and body plan are ­similar to ours, so humans who choose grease over greens should pay attention to the UCLA study.

Joburg dietician Lynn Odendaal said: “What I find interesting with this study is that even after the fat rats were switched to a healthy diet, they still ­experienced fatigue.”

Ntombi Hadebe, a Durban dietician, said this was the latest of “several studies” that showed eating junk food regularly lowered a person’s energy levels.

“I have also seen this in some of my patients,” said Hadebe.

“However, people must know that this behaviour can be rectified by eating right and exercising.”

South African parents should take heed of the study and the dieticians’ advice?–?our children are getting fatter and unfitter by the year.

In the Healthy Active Kids SA Report Card released by Discovery Health on Thursday, it emerged that 27% of South African girls and 9% of boys aged 15 to 17 are overweight or obese.

About 50% of the children surveyed are not ­physically active and more than two-thirds of those surveyed eat fast food at least three times a week.

Eating healthily doesn’t come naturally to some ­teenagers. Charne Jacobs (16), a Grade 10 pupil from Ballito in KwaZulu-Natal, said she found it difficult to eat what’s good for her because “healthy food is not nice, it’s not tasty”.

She added: “When you’re eating healthy, you see other people you are surrounded by eating junk food and you ­become addicted to more junk food. You get used to the fact that you eat burgers and stuff like that.

“The school tuck shop introduced healthy food ­because they were worried that people were eating too much junk.”

She and her friends are active; she plays soccer.

But how do you make the switch from feeding your children food that’s quick and easy to prepare?– like pizzas, burgers, chips, sandwiches and other unhealthier foods?–?to fruits and vegetables?

Hadebe said: “In the case of children, for instance, parents need to find innovative ways of making healthy food which will appeal to the young ones.

“Colourful and playful foods are appealing to kids. Instead of giving them a whole fruit, try cutting the fruit with them and pushing them through a skewer to make fruit kebabs.

“Cut veggies into interesting shapes and sprinkle them with cheese, biltong or anything that your kids love. Instead of buying them milkshakes, try making a fruit or vegetable smoothie with low-fat or fat-free ­yogurt.”

Beth Rosen-Gouws, the mother of twin boys Mattheo and Leopoldt (nearly 3), said presentation helped.

“I buy the food and cook the food so I get to choose what goes on the plate.

“I make it look attractive and interesting. We also tend to eat as a family so they see what we eat and get that positive influence.” The boys told City Press their favourite foods were “pink cake” and “pink ice cream”, meat and spaghetti, and chicken and rice.

They also like to snack on broccoli “trees”.–?Additional reporting by Natasha Joseph

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