Canadian Children Will Not Live As Long As Their Parents

BlogHer Original Post

According to a report from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, fewer children are eating the daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables than they were in 1998. They also are not getting as physiclaly active in the winter (though they do fairly well in the summer). If something doesn't change, these Canadian children will experience a shorter life span than their parents.

The report findings were released in a press release that can be viewed on the Heart and Stroke Foundation's webpage. At first I found some of the things in the press release scary, like this one:

The most disappointing finding is the number of children meeting the daily recommendations for fruit and vegetables, which has dropped by more than a third in just one decade. Ten years ago, one in five children was eating five or more servings of fruit and vegetables daily, which just meets Canada’s Food Guide's daily recommended minimum. But in 2009, the prevalence dropped to a mere one in eight children (13%).

But then, as usual when I read these reports, I start to ask questions. Let's look at the servings of fruits and vegetables. People are frequently unsure about serving sizes and what a "portion" is. Heck I was grilling my husband on some of these things just last month and he had no idea what a serving size actually was. So do parents know what counts as a serving of fruits and vegetables?

Gen tried following the Canadian Food Guide earlier this year and was surprised by what she learned about serving sizes

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I had to do a bit of head scratching in the evenings to eat all of the recommended portions. For this, yogurt with fruit and granola has been a good snacking choice. Serving sizes have also surprised me. For instance, did you know that half a muffin constitutes 1 grain serving? And that 2 eggs are equivalent to 2 tablespoons of peanut butter as a meat serving?

(Just a sidenote: I tried the personalize food guide. It's kind of neat. Not perfect, but a kind of fun tool to play with.)

The same follows for being active as well. I never would have described myself as an active kid. I was clumsy and uncoordinated and while I wasn't picked last for anything in gym class I came darn tooting close to it frequently. Yet looking back I can see that I walked a lot. I spent a good chunk of every summer playing outside and running through hay fields. Even in the winter I walked at lot out of necessity due to the fact that we had one of those long country driveways. In elementary school (which went to sixth grade) we were forced outside for recess every day unless it was raining or there was a cold weather warning. I'm sure if you asked my mother if I was a physically active child she would have told you no (and possibly added that I always had my head in a book). Even last winter I wouldn't have described my adult self as active, even though I was walking home from work every day thanks to a city-wide bus strike (erm, except that week that I got frostbite...). I was walking a minimum of two kilometers every day. (Uphill! In the snow! Oh geez, I sound like my grandfather). Until a few years ago I didn't have access to a car and did all my errands, including grocery shopping, on food. But if you asked me, I'd have told you I was pretty sedentary.

But maybe that's not the case at all. According to Stats Canada over half of Canadian children and youth aged five to 17 are not active enough for optimal growth and development.. The Heart and Stroke Foundation's study suggested that the respondents, who self-reported, maybe be viewing their children's health with rose-coloured glasses.

For example, in the Foundation’s 2009 poll, approximately 14% of parents reported their child is “somewhat overweight” and 1% that their child is “very overweight,” for a total of 15%. “However, we know that over the past 25 years, the rate of overweight and obesity among Canadian children aged 2 to 17-years has grown from 15% to 26% [1] and in Ontario the current rate of overweight and obesity is even slightly higher at 28%.”

The report goes on to suggest that parents might similarly be underestimating their children's junk food consumption. It also considers that at the moment, economic realities might be playing a part in people's food choices. Processed food is cheap, and depending on where you live it really can be cheaper than fresher, healthier alternatives. When I was looking for responses to this study I was very amused by how Suzie the Foodie makes sure she gets the right price on produce at the supermarket - she took a picture of the price sign.

I am sure the people in the "express" line were happy I had taken the picture as well! The cashier thought this idea was quite clever and kept laughing about it and telling people my bright idea as she quickly got someone to void the items. Am I the only one who keeps getting charged the higher price?!

Hey! If it works, why not?

I think every parent wants the best for their children. They want them to be healthy. Yet somehow as a nation we are failing the next generation. In the past ten years there's been a focus on nutrition and food labelling. We've started punting junk food out of schools. We're pushed kids to become more active. But still we seem to be sliding.

Marvelous Morsels admits that she hasn't always made the best health and fitness decisions for herself but find the report and statistics shocking. She has a message to parents.

So I have something to say to these parents, and you might be one of them: Please spare your child the years and years of heartache, physical distress and mental anguish that come from being overweight. Please teach them that healthy eating and exercise are normal, not abnormal. Please help them to live longer and more productive lives than yourselves. Stop pretending that there isn’t a problem and start leading by example. But do all this with love and intelligence, not with hurtful words and unkind thoughts.

We can do better for the next generation than treating them to a shorter life than we hope to live.

Contributing Editor Sassymonkey also blogs at Sassymonkey and Sassymonkey Reads.

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