Want your kids to outlive you? Time to ditch kids' meal

FOOD targeted at children tends to be processed, filled with additives and lacks any resemblance to what real, wholesome food actually looks like.

I believe on some level - from public health to filling school lunchboxes - the acceptance of what some kids are regularly eating has, unfortunately, become warped and is teaching them a diet for an early death.

Children love chicken nuggets, snack bars, crisps, biscuits, icecream and processed fruit treats, but they're not exactly high up the hierarchy of healthfulness.

No matter what your age, food is food. Some baby and toddler foods are essential for growth and development, but children and adolescents should not be choosing products targeted at them by their age.

It's a topic hotly debated by parents, health professionals and the children themselves. We know getting kids to eat well - or at all in some cases - isn't easy. Parents, understandably, will latch onto any food, tip or trick that can help them achieve this.

However, we need to ask the questions: Should children be eating the same as adults? And, if so, should we take kids' food off the shelves?

The strongest backer of kids' food is the industry itself.

They tell parents what's good for their children and many buy into their propaganda, whether it is helpful or harmful.

As a consequence, the voice of trusted health organisations like the Ministry of Health, Heart Foundation and Dietitian's NZ is drowned out.

Parents have a duty to find out what's healthy for their children and public health professionals have a duty to be more effective with empowering parents and children to make those healthy choices.

The problem is, marketing and big food companies hold considerable power over children's behaviour.

Kids often want to eat what's sweet, salty and full of fat, and when they do, they link it to the positive messages targeted at them in the colourful television commercials.

So they demand more. It's not really fair putting a 10-year-old up against an industry led by smart, suited and well paid marketing execs.

Ronald McDonald is not an icon for adults, but children are hypnotised by his magic and are willing to march 10,000 miles just to buy a Happy Meal. When I was young, I was the same and no doubt most of you were too.

Remember, children don't simply 'burn it off'.

A look at the growing rates of childhood obesity, diabetes and sedentariness is enough to suggest otherwise.

The quality of calories is just as important as the quantity. Children need to be eating sensible foods in sensible amounts.

Getting rid of kids' food is neither extreme nor unwise. It is only because it exists that children grow to expect it on their plates and in their lunchboxes.

From an early age, whole foods should comprise the majority of our calories. It is the recipe to living longer, healthier and happier lives. But the promotion of kids' food doesn't allow for healthy habits to form.

Do children know chips come from potatoes out of the ground? Many aren't aware of the connection between nature, real food and what they should be eating for good health.

Education is key. Meals, lunchboxes, home cooking and gardening are all learning opportunities.

Get children involved in everything from pulling the potato from the ground to peeling and roasting it. This will help them understand where wholesome food comes from and how it's made into something edible and delicious.

But ripples can't move rocks. We have to make waves.

A clear and powerful message must be voiced about the dangers of what some kids are eating.

If we want our younger generation to outlive their parents, then we must moderate how we market and sell food to kids, or completely take it off the shelves.

Dave is holding nutrition clinics as part of MajorFit Ltd at Next Generation Health Club in Parnell. Book an appointment here. Contact him via Facebook here.

Dave Shaw is a NZ dietitian, performance nutritionist and health expert. 

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