Although our country is part of the “rich and developed world”, food poverty sometimes also affects girls and boys living in Italy. In 2021, 5.2% of young people between the ages of 1 and 15 did not consume a protein meal a day. However, the percentages are different according to the regions : it reaches 6.7% in the South and is more contained in the central regions, 2.7%, while the figure remains the same for the North.
Good nutrition is lacking for 32% of 11-17 year olds, who never eat fruit and vegetables. Furthermore, a wrong diet combined with a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to weight gain, and already 17% of children aged between 5 and 9 in Italy are obese . Furthermore, Italian girls, boys and teenagers move little: on average 24.7% , a quarter, never practice sports . Again with considerable regional disparity.
THE RIGHT TO EAT WELL
Food poverty affects one in twenty children . The most effective way to eliminate food poverty for boys and girls aged 3 to 10 is to guarantee a high-quality, balanced, protein meal at school, i.e. having the possibility of using a canteen at kindergarten and primary school . But the school canteen also represents an essential service to ensure equal opportunities for health and learning: correct nutrition at school in fact contributes to the psycho-physical development of children, especially those who do not have access to adequate nutrition at home. their growth.
7 ADVICE FROM SIP
But what are the main recommendations for proper nutrition in children and adolescents? In the XIII edition of the Atlas of children at risk in Italy “How are you?” , the Italian Society of Pediatrics (SIP) offers the precious contribution on some good practices to follow for a healthy diet. Here are the 7 tips that the Italian Society of Pediatrics has to give in this regard:
1. Not only food, but also conviviality , yes to family meals. These are important moments for a child’s day and studies reveal that these consumption occasions help maintain a richer and more varied diet, so much so that they appear to have a slight protective effect against the development of overweight and obesity in children. It is therefore recommended to eat at least 5 meals a week with the family to promote healthy eating behaviors.
2. Consume 5 meals a day, up to the age of 12 , as it has been shown that this number of meals a day reduces the risk of obesity . In fact, studies suggest a possible effect in reducing the sense of hunger guaranteed by regular food frequencies. In addition to the 3 main meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner), it is therefore recommended to eat 2 snacks, one mid-morning and one mid-afternoon with the intention of reducing hunger until the next meal.
3. Don’t skip breakfast .
Consuming food between 6 and 9 in the morning reduces the risk of developing obesity in childhood. On the contrary, if breakfast is skipped, excessive and disproportionate food consumption occurs in the following hours, which affects the energy balance with an excess of energy intake compared to the daily energy expenditure.
4. Pay attention to the composition of the meal.
Numerous studies demonstrate, for example, the negative impact of consuming fast food on children. Furthermore, some studies confirm that the risk increases with increasing age, ie the greater the autonomy in the choice of foods by children, the greater the willingness to consume fast food. Equally important are the choices of snacks, to limit those with a high energy content, rich in saturated fats, refined sugars and salt .
5. Limit sugary drinks.
They are drinks or drinks enriched with caloric sweeteners whose high consumption causes a high introduction of free sugars in both children and adults. It is recommended to offer children a daily consumption of water, avoiding it.
6. Pay attention to food portions .
It has in fact been highlighted in numerous studies that the daily food consumption of children from the age of 4 is largely influenced by the size of the portion they are served, hence the importance of educating parents to estimate correct portions for their children based on age.
7. Encourage daily moderate-intensity vigorous physical activity for at least 60 minutes in all individuals ages 3 to 17 years . No to a sedentary lifestyle and yes to limiting the time spent in front of screens, especially during meals.
In addition, Elvira Verduci , SIP National Councilor and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Milan, explains that “The reference food model is the Mediterranean Diet, rich in foods of plant origin (fruit, wholegrain cereals, legumes, seeds), characterized by the use of olive oil as the main source of added fats and by a moderate consumption of fish, eggs, poultry and dairy products combined with a reduced consumption of red meat.Several studies on children and adolescents have shown that less is the adherence to the Mediterranean model and the greater the prevalence of overweight and obesity”.