Food choices, a lack of physical activity and an increased sedentary lifestyle all feed into obesity and these are always on a school’s radar.
But when it comes to healthy eating, are we getting it right? Do children know what’s what and what’s rot?
There are quite a few common healthy eating myths that need debunking and it’s worth taking a look at these together so that children don’t feed off the misconceptions.
Children need to be aware that everybody’s diet can be different and still healthy and balanced and it’s all related to individual needs such as how active we are, age and genetic make-up.
Myth 1: Eating junk food is bad for you
If you eat ‘junk’ food and nothing else then yes, it isn’t good for you. But something like chips aren’t bad for you now and again. In fact, chips have been demonised over the years “because they are high in fat” but not all chips are. Chips might be viewed as a ‘bad’ food but they are a useful source of vitamin C.
Myth 2: You should avoid bread, pasta and rice to lose weight
This is a common myth that just isn’t true. When eaten in excess, carbohydrates are turned into fat cells by our bodies but we need carbs to function normally and especially for growth. Eat the right amount at the right time is key and that’s usually just before physical activity. Carbs are not the enemy as complex carbs found in whole grain or whole wheat foods contain healthy levels of nutrients and fibre.
Myth 3: Gluten-free options are healthier
Gluten-free is healthier for people suffering celiac disease but for everyone else gluten-free options have no impact on our general wellbeing.
Myth 4: Eating fats will make you fat
It’s important not to cut out all fats from our diet but know the difference between the healthy and unhealthy varieties. Fat is a necessary element in our diets, as the body can’t process some vitamins without the fat’s help in dissolving them into your system,
Minimising fat intake is important but eating healthy fats from monounsaturated sources like olive oil, fish, avocados, and nuts provide essential nutrients and help us to feel full. Research shows that low-fat diets are not the most effective path to long-term weight loss.
Myth 5: Eating carrots helps you see better
Myth 6: Some types of sugar are better for you than others
We need glucose to survive and all types of sugar are ultimately broken down into the same thing: glucose. Consuming too much sugar is not good for us and if we consume more calories than we burn off we can become overweight. “Natural” sweeteners like honey are not healthier than white sugar.
Myth 7 : You need to drink 8 glasses of water a day
Says who? There’s no single amount of water that’s recommended for all people at all times. We can also get some of the water we need from other drinks and the foods we eat such as fruits and vegetables.
Myth 8: A daily multivitamin gives children all the nutrients they need
Multivitamins provide only some of the vitamins and nutrients a child needs for good health. They can be used as a supplement to a balanced diet, not substitute it.
Myth 9: Salads are always a healthy option
Not if you douse a salad in dressings. The amount of cheese, meats, dressings and other seasonings can soon make a salad an unhealthy choice.
Need more advice about food? The Rowett Institute in Aberdeen has a proven track record in developing high-quality, innovative resources and activities both for schools and for public engagement with science.