cooking and eatingMore and more young adults are overweight: One in six teens is currently overweight, according to research by research platform Pointer (KRO-NCRV). An increase in unhealthy food plays an important role in this, according to many experts. How do you help your child deal with the over-marketing of snacks that are full of fat, salty and sweet?
The number of unhealthy points of sale in the Netherlands has increased by 30 percent in the past 10 years and nearly 400,000 children in our country are overweight. Advertising of foods aimed at children under 13 is not allowed, but marketers often circumvent these rules, constantly urging children to buy unhealthy food.
“Over the past 50 years, we’ve created a kind of paradise where kids are constantly surrounded by greasy, sweet, and savory products,” says Gap Seidel, professor of nutrition and health. “Parents have a job to teach children to like bitter, hard, and high-fiber products, but often they don’t have the time, skills or knowledge to do so.”
“Only 1 to 5 percent of children in the Netherlands eat enough vegetables,” Seidel says. “This is because there are so many unhealthy temptations that take the place of healthy eating habits. This is why there are so many children who are overweight.”
Babies and children need energy and nutrients to thrive. It’s usually found in fatty and sweet things, like breast milk,” Seidl explains. “So we have an innate preference for fat and sweet. Sweets also give a reward boost to the brain. A chemical in your brain called dopamine makes you feel good. The food industry knows this well, so they have made the foods in such a way that the desire for these products is perfect.”
Tips for parents
1. Dive into marketing
Child psychologist Tisha Neff describes awareness as the first step. “Parents are not always aware of what children are up against, what temptations are and how hard it is to resist them. Your child has a full life outside where you are not always around. So it is good to realize that they have to deal with all kinds of things that we know nothing about.”
2. Explain to teenagers
In order to teach your child how to deal with ads, it’s a good idea to clarify, says Leonie Barelds, UNICEF children’s rights specialist. Make them aware of what advertising and information are and how they can tell them apart. It is important to discuss this.”
Nev agrees. Try to open up a conversation as often as possible. Make them aware of the consequences of unhealthy eating. So don’t get into courtship mode, but explain why all this unhealthy food isn’t good and why it’s important to let healthy food have the upper hand: what’s the use of it and what do you need it for? If you’re just being strict and blocking it, there’s a greater chance your child will do it in secret, because the temptation is still there.”
3. Demonstrate understanding
“It’s also important to show guys an understanding that it’s delicious and that all your friends can buy it,” says Neve. “It is important for young people not to fall out of the group and to do everything differently.”
“Make deals and try to find a middle ground,” says the child psychiatrist. Define your limits clearly and make the facilities for that, serve a nice breakfast and a good lunch, and agree that they can buy something once a week, for example. Also explain why unhealthy eating works against you at some point, because it makes you very fat, makes you less able to exercise, everything.”
4. Help Say No
“It’s important to take sides and realize that you need to help your child say no when others do,” says Neve. Or it can make you fat in the end, so there’s no quick fix By blocking it, it’s awareness, talking about it, showing all sides, showing understanding and seeing how you can do it in a way that works for you both.”
5. Try to make deals around YouTube
Does your child watch a lot of YouTube videos? YouTube offers a version suitable for children between the ages of 3 and 12. You will not see certain ads on this version. But the older they get, the less influence you have as a parent. “You can still then try to make agreements about it,” Barfields says.
According to Seidel, it also works well if children inform each other. We’ve done studies where we train kids to be some kind of lifestyle advisor, explaining to each other how bad energy drinks are, for example. Then they listen to each other, and that’s more impactful than if governments or the nutrition center started providing the information.”
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