Eating is a fundamental habit since childhood and has a direct relationship with the health and well-being of a person, allowing the body to perform all its metabolic functions, stay active and grow, especially in the case of children.
“When we talk about food, we are not only referring to food intake, but also to nutrition, that is, the balance and quantities of the food groups that we consume daily,” explains Érika de la Fuente, Executive Director of Services Educatives for Child Development (SEDI) and specialist in pediatric and family medicine from UNAM.
There are two large nutritional groups: the macronutrients, which are carbohydrates, proteins and fats, and the micronutrients, which include all vitamins and minerals. The first group provides our body with enough energy to function and the second allow it to regenerate and are vehicles for proper metabolic functioning.
In Mexico, 3 out of 10 children between the ages of 5 and 11 are overweight or obese according to data from the Inegi National Health and Nutrition Survey 2018. In addition, our country ranks first in America in the intake of sugary drinks with an average of 163.3 liters per person per year.
According to the World Health Organization, childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century, due to insufficient diet and physical activity. This organism ensures that children with this condition will continue to be overweight in adulthood and are more likely to present non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at younger ages.
“According to the epigenetic medical theory, if my parents had diabetes and I do nothing to prevent it, I will end up developing it; But if I have healthy habits, with a balanced diet, with a good night’s sleep at the correct times and the practice of exercise; it is most likely that I can prevent the disease from manifesting itself or delay its appearance ”, explains Dr. De la Fuente.
This concept, which has become more prevalent in the last ten years, considers that what happens in a person’s environment and their habits influence the manifestation of the genes that they have from conception. “Although it is true that there are certain diseases that do what you do manifest themselves, there are others such as diabetes or hypertension, which are not necessarily 100 percent determined,” adds the specialist.
“The food group that children consume the least when they arrive at the SEDI centers are vegetables and this has a lot to do with the fact that parents in their personal habit consume few vegetables. In this sense we must remember that words move, but examples sweep. The example is the most important thing and if we want our children to have healthy eating habits, we have to do it first, ”says the doctor.
The ban on the sale of junk food to minors recently came into force in the state of Oaxaca and it seems that this initiative could be extended to other parts of the country such as Guanajuato, Morelos, Chihuahua, Colima, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas and Mexico City. In addition, in the last fifteen years the rules for nutritional labeling of products have been expanded.
“Many of the measures that have been adopted have not worked. On this subject, it is important to take into account the concept of ‘obesogenic environments’, that is, environments that promote bad habits. If a father or mother decides not to take home products that have a high fat or caloric content, then no one in the family is going to consume it, ”says the expert.
Many of these foods rich in carbohydrates and fats are very attractive because they produce neurological stimuli. In this sense, the doctor considers that on special occasions the ingestion can be allowed, such as, for example, on a birthday; but it must be something exceptional and at home it is important to avoid consuming them. “All the habits of parents are transmitted as modeling to their children. The first thing we should ask ourselves is if we are a good role model and if we promote a healthy life in them ”, says Dr. De la Fuente, who adds that the first source of information on what is correct and what is not correct is life is parents.
In Mexico, what is known as “the plate of good eating” has been developed, a food guide that is part of the Official Mexican Standard for the promotion and education for health in food matters, which establishes criteria for nutritional orientation .
“According to this rule, in each of the three main meals of the day, which are breakfast, lunch and dinner; the three main food groups must be present: fruits and vegetables; legumes and foods of animal origin; finally the group of cereals, including potatoes, sweet potatoes and other starchy foods. In addition, in children two small snacks are used, preferably with fruit ”, explains Dr. De la Fuente, who adds that it is advisable to try to combine the colors of the food.
Along with food, exercise is also important, both planned and play, considered essential for children. “With quarantine there is a risk of increased sedentary lifestyle, especially in children. For this reason, it is recommended that they continue with their extracurricular workshops ”, adds Patricia de la Fuente, general director of SEDI, who details that after-school activities in their centers always promote physical and aesthetic activities that are neglected a lot in the academic work such as Aikido, ballet, yoga and choreographic dance and other additional workshops such as robotics or thinking skills.