Did Granny eat better than your kid?
Modern children just don’t get the same nutrients, says a new book on children’s food.
(Getty Images)
Knowledge about what is healthy and what is unhealthy is always shifting.

There’s only one thing that seems to make sense consistently to me: The closer our food is to what Nature intended, and the less engineering humans have applied, the healthier it turns out to be.

Child nutrition has declined

Food processing has increased and soil quality declined as pesticides have increased. Researchers compared the 1950 diet records of 4600 four-year-old children in the UK to similar records from 1992. They found that child nutrition in the 1950s was superior to their nutrition in the 1990s.

Despite shortages, 1950s children:
  • Ate more good-quality bread and milk, increasing their fibre and calcium intake
  • Drank few soft drinks and derived very little energy from refined sugars
  • Ate more red meat (raised in pastures instead of corralled into feedlots and fed growth hormones and antibiotics), giving them more iron
  • Got most of their vitamin C from vegetables rather than juices and drinks, and
  • Had more fat in their diet (yes, more fat – only this was made up of real fats and not chemically altered ones.)
The researchers concluded that modern children consume less fibre, calcium, vitamins and iron.

It’s ironic that as so-called knowledge of nutrition has increased, the quality of food has decreased, and many children (and adults) have got fatter.

Children need calories

In some parts of the world even young children are developing a fear of calories and trying to cut down on them by either refusing to eat or by eating low-calorie or no-calorie foods.

This is absurd. What children need is quality is quality, nutrition-filled calories.

They don’t need to eat less, they need to eat better.

Salt, sugar and fat

The worst combination of all for health and weight are foods that combine trans fats with high levels of sugars and salt, as do many restaurant foods, fast foods and snack-type foods. It’s a highly palatable combination that has another unexpected side effect.

Children are much more likely to complain that healthy food ‘doesn’t taste nice’ because in comparison to salt-, fat- and sugar-laden products, natural food can taste bland and unappetising.

Even when children have eaten sufficient food, they are easily tempted to eat more when something highly palatable is presented.

The moral of the story of declining nutrition? An aeroplane can travel off course for five minutes and that’s relatively easy to correct. But when it travels off course for five hours, it’s a totally different scenario. It’s not what you put into your body on any one day, but rather over time, that really matters.

This is an extract from Mom, Pass the Broccoli! By Cari Corbet-Owen (Oshun), available from Kalahari.net for R138,36.

Do you think today’s children eat better or worse than previous generations?

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