Just what is “fake food?”
The term “fake food” means processed, refined food products that have been changed from their original whole food source. For example, one of our favorite cookies, the Oreo®, contains flour and sugar, which were once wheat and sugar cane. But Oreo® cookies obviously don’t contain the nutrients of the whole foods wheat and sugar cane.
We know you love the taste, but it’s not too late for you to stop eating fake foods and the same goes for your kids.
Teach your kids to eat and enjoy “real” foods
Pediatrician Dr. David Ludwig says children should eat “real” foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, cheese and milk, instead of “fake” foods such as candy, soda, white bread and sugar-loaded breakfast cereals. He invites overweight children to play a food game on their first visit to his weight-control clinic at Children’s Hospital Boston.
He asks them to imagine what they would have eaten if they had lived in the Stone Age. Most kids rattle off a list that includes nuts, berries, vegetables, fruits, beans, fish and meat. Ludwig calls these “real foods” because they’re from nature.
Then he tells the children to look at their food record of what they eat during a typical day. He tells them to circle the “fake foods” in the diary, which he defines as highly processed foods made in factories, such as sweetened cereals, sugary drinks, chips, cookies, candy, white bread and fast food.
“Often two-thirds of the diary is circled,” he says. One teenage boy said to Ludwig, “Wow, I guess I’m eating a lot of the fake stuff.”
“Fake food is a concept that kids can get in a few minutes, and once they get it, it can guide them to make some dramatic changes in their eating habits,” says Ludwig, one of the nation’s leading researchers on childhood obesity and an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.
Bad foods are everywhere
Ludwig believes a big part of the reason for skyrocketing rates of childhood obesity is that children are surrounded by fake foods everywhere as well as ads to eat them.
Ludwig has done more than 40 research studies, including reports that show:
- If childhood obesity continues unabated, it could shorten the average life span of today’s children by two to five years.
- Overweight teens eat about 400 more calories on a day when they consume fast food compared with a day when they don’t.
- Highly processed foods, low in fiber, can cause weight gain because after eating these foods, children’s blood sugar often rises quickly, and then crashes. This stimulates hunger and overeating.
Guidance, direction, modeling
The most common mistake parents make is they are “too permissive” about what they let their children consume, he says. “If kids don’t want to eat what’s served, all too often parents jump up and make a second meal just for them.”
Parents “need to provide firm guidance, direction and modeling” when it comes to healthful eating, but many children decide what they want based on TV commercials. “And we know that what gets advertised on TV is not broccoli, zucchini and cauliflower.”
Ludwig says families should rid their homes of most “fake foods” and stock shelves with more “real foods.” Everybody in the family wins if the food environment at home is better, he says; it supports the health of the entire family and reduces conflict.
“The obese child loses weight, and the lean siblings avoid a future problem. Plus, adults’ cholesterol and blood pressure improve.”
Popularity: 2% [?]