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How Healthy & Unhealthy Foods Affect Children

The old adage “you are what you eat” couldn't be more accurate in an age where unhealthy food is far more accessible than healthy choices for many American children. Over one-third of American children are now overweight and at risk for various associated diseases. Healthy foods help children grow and develop, while unhealthy choices may impair concentration and pose real threats to physical and emotional health.

The Importance of Breakfast

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, children need a balanced breakfast in order to concentrate in school and for problem-solving skills – including test-taking. Complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, provide the body and brain sustainable energy throughout the day, whereas simple carbohydrates like sugar can cause a spike in blood sugar – with accompanying hyperactivity – and then a blood sugar crash, which can impair concentration. Children are growing and learning at such a rapid rate, it is important to help them start their day with all the nutrients they need to develop and learn.

Healthy Diet and Development

Whole, unprocessed foods provide dense macro- and micronutrients which your child needs to grow and develop. Children with a healthy diet learn better, test better and have less behavioral problems. Food fuels the brain – cholesterol from healthy sources like eggs and nuts helps build brain tissue and omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, walnuts, sea vegetables and flaxseeds promote healthy brain development. Whole, unprocessed foods are more likely to have healthy levels of vitamins and minerals when compared to processed foods.

Fast Food Nation

Our culture has become increasingly dependent on eating food prepared outside the home. For many children, this means eating fast food like hamburgers and french fries regularly. According to an article in "Pediatrics," more than 30 percent of children studied ate fast food at least once a day. Unhealthy foods like those found in fast food restaurants have excessive calories in the form of fat and sugar, as well as unhealthy levels of sodium. Foods high in fat and sugar are directly linked to childhood obesity and a number of accompanying health problems.

Obesity Consequences

The consequences of a poor diet, which leads to obesity in childhood, are numerous and include social and emotional damage as well as physical ailments. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obese children are more likely to have poor self-esteem and suffer from psychological problems, which can continue into adulthood. Children who are significantly overweight can develop diseases like Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, fatty liver disease, asthma and other disorders. Obese children are also more likely to suffer from obesity in adulthood and to develop cardiovascular disease, certain forms of cancer and diabetes later in life.

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