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Children aren’t eating real food

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Children aren’t eating real food. Nearly two-thirds of the calories they consume are coming from ‘ultraprocessed’ foods, such as fastfood burgers, sugary breakfast cereals and French fries.

It’s a health time-bomb that could trigger an explosion in cases of diabetes, obesity, cancer and heart disease, say researchers.

Children as young as two are getting 67 percent of their calories from highly processed foods, and it’s a problem that’s getting worse.  When the survey was last taken in 1999, the food contributed to 61 percent of total calorie intake.

The only bright spot was the drop in the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks, which contributed 5.3 percent of total calories compared to 10.8 percent in the 1999 survey. 

The biggest rise was in frozen pizzas and burgers consumption, which now accounts for 11 percent of calories consumed, compared to just 2.2 percent 20 years ago, say researchers from Tufts University.  

Not surprisingly, children aged from two to 19 were eating fewer healthier options, such as fruits and vegetables, which represent just 23 percent of the overall diet.  The rest of the average diet was made up of ‘moderately’ processed foods, such as cheese, canned fruits and vegetables.

Ultraprocessed foods are high in added sugars, sodium and flavour enhancers, and low in protein, vitamins and minerals.  

(Source: JAMA, 2021; 326: 519)

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Article Topics: nutrition
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