BIRDEM hospital head of nutrition Shamsunnaher Nahid Mohua said that children in Bangladesh are being pushed to make wrong food choices from the very beginning of their life, leading them to grow unhealthy.
Failing to adapt children to homemade, balanced and healthy foods, the children since their toddler years are leaning towards junk foods which are calorie-enriched but unhealthy, she said.
Nahid Mohua said that children entering into six months of their age are needed to adapt themselves to all kinds of foods in a convenient way alongside breast feeding.
But many mothers often deprive their children of breastfeeding while others fail to grow the habit of feeding homemade foods and resort to commercially manufactured complementary milks and foods, she said.
Children needed to adapt and grow habits of eating homemade foods by two and half years of their age, but if they got habituated to eating wrong foods, there was possibilities of getting obese and overweight in the later stage, she said.
‘To adapt to diverse homemade foods, toddlers should be given smashed foods not blended foods,’ Mohua said.
‘Thus they will grow in sensitivity to the tastes of homemade foods and develop a liking for those foods,’ she added.
‘As the toddlers fail to identify particular tastes of different homemade foods in blended foods, they start getting bored of the foods and start refusing the foods,’ she explained.
Nahid Mohua said parents, being too concerned over the refusal of the foods, started pushing them towards foods of their own choice.
‘And at this stage, children often start liking pre-packaged foods and processed foods and soft drinks due to the consistent push for foods they already started disliking,’ she said.
Parents also often surrendered to their children and started feeding the packaged and processed foods as they believed their children need to fill their tummies, she continued.
The nutritionist pointed out that when the children started going to school, they now found wide range of packet foods, processed foods and junk foods and start swallowing, which ultimate result is getting obese and overweight.
Such foods were calorie-enriched but not nutritious, she said.
‘Children also start refusing homemade tiffin and buy unhealthy foods from shops,’ Mohua said.
Many parents also preferred taking a shortcut and started buying foods from shops instead of preparing tiffin for them.
Foods in the shops were attractive for children while they had already become bored or failed to grow tastes in diversified homemade foods, she added.
There were effects of socialisation in the classrooms to develop a liking for the unhealthy junk foods, Mohua said.
When some children take homemade tiffin to schools and many other buy fast foods, they start feeling unsocial and thus expect to take such fast foods, she said.
Another concern is that school canteens often make unhealthy junk foods and soft drinks available for children, Mohua said.
When children are taking such unhealthy junk foods and getting high calories, there are little scope for them to burn calories, she said.
The nutritionist also said that most worrying aspect of taking care of children today was that they had no playground in schools, not enough time in the class schedule for physical activities and they had no playground near their homes either.
The pressure of study also deprived them to find scope for outdoor activities, she said.
Mohua said that children should be acquainted with all homemade foods and their tastes before they go to school and the school authorities should create a culture of taking homemade foods to their schools.
‘Environment of home and school are crucial for children to choose foods,’ she said.
The policymakers should think twice before they allowed fast food shops around schools, she suggested.
Nahid Mohua said that wrong food choices had a big impact on children during their puberty, for their growth, height and bone development depended on what they consumed.
‘If we don’t become careful about their foods from the beginning, they will encounter many diseases like hypertension, diabetes, kidney diseases, and cardiac diseases and so on in later life,’ she said.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Interview