Proper diet "key to better learning..."
GIVE your child the right diet and you could lower their chances of developing learning difficulties, food allergies, illnesses, obesity and other problems, says a leading nutritionist.
Sugar, additives, colourings and other ingredients are robbing children of their health rather than helping them grow into healthy adults, nutritional therapist Alia Almoayed told the GDN.
"The rate of children with hyperactivity and learning difficulties such as autism, speech delays, lack of eye contact and concentration is skyrocketing in the region and the world," she said.
"Soon, one in two children will have an allergy and it will be directly related to the food they eat.
"Obesity rate in pre-school children is a warning signal that something is wrong. They aren't just cute because they are chubby, and you can't say it's all because of genetics, as the rate is rising.
"There are children with high blood pressure at the age of four.
"Low immunity is another problem and you see children going from one illness to the next. Children have coughs and colds that linger for months and this shows that something is wrong."
The biggest culprit is sugar. Sugar lowers immunity for up to 15 hours after it is consumed and that's why children end up with recurrent colds, coughs and ear infections, said Ms Almoayed, who has been a consultant in the UK and Bahrain for the last seven years.
Additives, colourings and flavour enhancers in children's foods can also lead to problems such as hyperactivity and low-attention spans because they are chemicals, which affect the way the brain works.
Speaking from her experience as a nutritionist and mother of two, Ms Almoayed has seen that changing a child's diet can make a huge difference to their health and behaviour.
Making a change to your child's diet doesn't have to be a struggle, she says. It can be as easy as substituting raisins for chocolate, or oatcakes for biscuits.
If your child simply can't live without chocolate, then switch cheap, coloured versions for good quality dark chocolate and make it into a fondue, in which they can dip fruit, advises Ms Almoayed. As long as children eat the right foods, 75 per cent of the time, the odd birthday celebration or special occasion won't hurt.
"You have to make food fun. As parents, we need to help children develop a healthy relationship with food and there is nothing wrong with them playing with their food - not making a mess, but having a relationship with it," explained Ms Almoayed.
"For example, a sandwich can look boring, so we can cut it with a cookie cutter and use coloured sword sticks to make it fun.
"Sandwiches don't have to be just cheese, you can have chopped tomatoes with chicken or hummus, and so on.
"As parents, we give up too soon with trying to make our child eat healthily. But regardless of how busy you are, it is your responsibility. What you put in their lunch box and in your cupboard is your decision.
"For children, good nutrition can determine the quality of the rest of their lives. It can boost their learning immunity, energy levels, and every aspect of their day-to-day lives through childhood and into adulthood."
Ms Almoayed has inculcated good eating habits in her children, Selma and Laith. While sometimes they do compare their lunch boxes with those of their friends, they know the benefits of a healthy diet.
"I started with my children when they were young and I always explained to them the reasons why they should eat certain foods and not others," said Ms Almoayed.
"If they are having cake with icing, they will always remove the icing because they know it is not food, and I tell them it is full of colours and will effect their schooling - bringing the explanation down to their level."
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