If you are a health-conscious parent you may be aware that most family restaurants have a kids’ menu that list either a white bun-packed hamburger or hot dog, pasta and cheese or cheese-only pizza. Same for various social events, from birthday parties to community events. Vegetables seem to go MIA when children are at the receiving end.
Because, some argue, children are picky eaters and such foods are guaranteed to be a success with the pickiest of them all.
Yet the connection between nutrition and children does not have to be an off-color, potentially stale one. Given the choice and proper explanations, children will eat fruit and vegetables with delight.
In other words, if children grow up seeing nutritious and colorful meals on the table, they’ll learn that eating colorful meals where the colors come from fruits and vegetables help them stay healthy and smart.
Yet that is not all. Most importantly, children’s foods should be chemical-free.
Various chemicals used to grow food, such pesticides and fertilizers, or fungicides used to extend the storage life and prevent fungal growth, render conventionally-grown food loaded with potentially harmful substances, some more than others. A good reason to opt for certified organic as often as possible within the constraints of your budget.
The reasons are simple: children’s bodies are smaller and their growing organs are easily affected by chemicals, even in small doses. Picky eaters or not, in relation to body weight, children are exposed to more pesticides from eating, skin contact and breathing. After all, they spend much of their early years playing on the floor and snacking often.
According to an article published in 2012 in Pediatrics1, the main source of pesticide exposure for the general population remains the food supply, since many foods are treated with organochlorines and organophosphates, which are some of the most used pesticides to date. The emergence of new ones as well as pesticide resistance in crops means increased exposure to increased chemical challenges.
Detoxification mechanisms that help eliminate various chemicals from the human body are not fully developed in children, which makes chemicals linger for longer periods of time, causing temporary imbalances or even permanent harm.
There has been an increase in the number of studies linking various neurodevelopmental disorders to pesticide exposure in children. A recent review2 published in Annals of agricultural and environmental medicine in 2013 pointed to neurodevelopmental problems such as abnormal reflexes, hyperactivity and abnormal alertness in children exposed to organophosphates and organochlorines chemicals.
Most pesticides are endocrine disruptors as well, which means they can wreak havoc with the finely tuned endocrine system, and many children are exposed to them even before being born through maternal exposure.
To add insult to injury, much of the children tableware is made of plastic, which can also leach estrogen-like molecules into food (more on this topic in next week’s post,) causing hormonal harm.
The good news? It takes 5 days for children to eliminate most of the pesticide metabolites after they switch to organic food, concluded a study3 published in Environmental Health Perspectives in 2006. Talk about resilience!
The environmental impact cannot be forgotten either. Whether you are close to the farm where your food comes from, all pesticides used for agricultural purposes on one side of the planet will ultimately affect the wellness of all of us. Water ways and air currents will take them far and wide. If there’s one thing that can be said about life on Earth is that every person’s actions will affect the rest of us.
So choose wise, live healthy and have a positive impact on your immediate world as well on the planet!
Daniela Ginta, MSc lives and writes in Kamloops, BC, after many years spent on the West Coast. She writes mostly on environmental and social issues, and occasionally shares insights into her life as a mother of two young sons to whom she wants to give two things: common sense and a social conscience. Daniela has written for many local and national publications, and has no fear when it comes to discussing big uncomfortable environment or society-related topics. You can visit her at www.thinkofclouds.com and www.danielaginta.com, or drop her a line at email@example.com.