By: Sally Nay, PhD, Holistic Nutrition
Is it possible for the young parent of today to understand the transformation that has taken place in this country and the world in the last fifty years regarding child nutrition? American children from birth to twelve are not receiving adequate nutrition for optimal growth in the aspects of cognitive, physical, and social development. Children are the future of America. Producing and developing undernourished children could only result in an inferior America.
The major causes of this decline are complex but some things are very clear. Every cell in the body is created by macronutrient and micronutrient intake. The more optimal the diet the more healthful the body. What are American children eating today and why?
At the beginning of the 20th century, if an American child wanted a snack, it consisted of a piece of fruit or some nuts or bread and cheese. There were very few commercial snacks available. Now, in 2007, we see children eating mostly processed food, sugary cereals, beverages, and snacks and very few unprocessed fruits and vegetables. Our soils in this country are almost completely devoid of nutrients. One of the reasons for this is that our chemical fertilizers replace only three nutrients as opposed to more than 50 natural nutrients that should be in our soils. Produce, grown in these soils, has little nutrient value. Eating organic foods exponentially augments the nutrient value, yet, parents frequently perceive organic food as too expensive. This is not so in the long run.
School lunches became available in the United States in the late 1800’s. These meals were healthy foods, served to assure that no child went without proper nutrition. The school lunches have, paradoxically, become foods of little nutritional value and foods to avoid. Vending machine junk foods and fast foods sold in cafeterias have made the availability of wholesome foods impossible during the school day. There is evidence that high incidence of ADHD has been traced to the chemicals and preservatives contained in these processed foods as well as nutrient deficiencies. Learning disabilities and behavioral disorders are often associated with toxicological insults on our children at a very young age. Our children are exposed to an enormous level of environmental toxins from food and water. Their bodies cannot process these toxins as efficiently as an adult can because their organs are still developing. The effect of toxic exposure on children can be six to ten times higher than on adults. Schools making moderate to major changes in the food fed to children have experienced positive results, such as minimizing behavior problems and improving test scores. Let your school officials hear your voice regarding school lunches and eliminating junk food and drinks in the school. Make sure the water available to your child is pure.
The problem begins with the government allowing the commercial food industry to influence American children strongly by unregulated advertising of processed and junk foods. Linn, a Harvard psychologist, calls it “brainwashing” and wants it to end. Many other countries, around the world, have outlawed this practice and have seen success, thereafter. Adults are “brainwashed” as well. Convincing commercial food advertising claims that their brands are good for our children and for us. Rest assured, their only motivation is a financial one. They are not in business to make us healthy but rather to make a profit at the expense of our health. Studies have shown that it takes only thirty seconds for a television commercial to influence a child age 2-6. Many researchers believe that television advertising is an attempt to take over children’s minds. How often do your children beg for a low nutrition food product they saw on TV? Television is undermining parent’s best intentions. Is it time to turn off the television? Maybe we need to pressure the federal government to subsidize commercials for whole foods; nutritious fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
Prenatal nutrition of the mother is also of immense importance. More and more women are miscarrying due to poor nutrition or toxic environments. If the mother-to-be has not developed a nutritionally sound diet and improved her body then how can she provide the embryo with the nutrients it needs? Breast feeding is of utmost importance to provide the neonate with the nutrients DHA and EPA which are imperative for optimal brain development. Formulas, no matter how prepared, cannot match the nutrients of breast milk. However, good breast milk is available only from healthy mothers.
One of the critical periods for the development of good nutrition values in children are from the last trimester of fetal life to three years of age. The other is around the age of nine years of age. All young children can learn the value of good nutrition if parents, schools, and health providers work together toward this goal. The most important influence is the modeling parents perform with their own nutritional choices. A double standard does not work. Children will eat what the rest of the family eats. Child obesity is epidemic in this country. However, adult obesity is epidemic as well. Parent’s would not intentionally harm their children but many are doing just that because of lack of knowledge. Children should be our highest priority.
There are many ways to change one’s nutritional paradigm and dietary lifestyle. This is not something that happens by “putting oneself on a diet” and it does not happen quickly. Remember, we are all brainwashed at this point. Joining a group program focusing on low glycemic eating and nutritional education can be a starting point. Slow and steady change is most effective. Whether you are a parent of a young child or a grandparent or relative, you want what is best for the young child in your life. Learn more about nutrition so you can be a good model for them.
Sally Nay, Ph.D., is a Holistic Health Consultant with Integrative Therapies. Her undergraduate studies include a dual major in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. Her Master’s Degree in Education includes an emphasis in Montessori Education. She received her Montessori Certification from the Association Montessori Internationale. She is the founder of Deer Path Montessori School. Dr. Nay earned her doctorate in Holistic Nutrition. Another area of her expertise is nutritious eating for weight management. (336) 294- 0910.