Poor nutrition results from poverty and a lack of education regarding healthy eating. Children who regularly consume foods that are low in nutrition suffer negative consequences that encompass many parts of their lives. Strides are being made in schools to provide more nutrition curriculum and to raise the standards for school lunches. In the meantime, parents who understand how important healthy foods are can give their children a head start in making a healthy life for themselves.
Foods That Offer Poor Nutrition
Foods that are considered to be of poor nutritional quality are those that are high in fat, calories, salt, sugar and cholesterol and contain little to no vitamins or minerals. This includes fast food, processed snacks, candy, cake, cookies, soda, frozen meals and many of the ala carte options offered in school cafeterias. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, children who eat fast food consume less milk, fiber, fruit and non-starchy vegetables than those who don't. If children are filling up on these low nutrient foods, they are at risk of being deficient in nutrients that help them grow and develop throughout childhood.
School and Performance
Children who don't fuel their bodies and brains with nutritious foods cannot focus and perform as well on school work. The Baylor College of Medicine reports that a healthy breakfast results in improved attention, quick recall, less errors and better concentration at school in the morning. It can be assumed that a healthy lunch provides these same benefits for the rest of the school day. A poor breakfast is one that is high in sugar, such as a doughnut or toaster pastry. Children need to eat whole grains, low-fat dairy, eggs and fresh fruit in the morning. A consistently poor diet robs children of the opportunity to learn to the best of their abilities.
The risks associated with poor nutrition are many and children face lifelong issues if they don't get healthy foods on a daily basis. Obesity is one of the major concerns that children face when they eat poor diets because they are too high in fat and calories, which results in a continued weight gain. Other health risks include heart disease, depression, high blood pressure and diabetes, all of which are exacerbated by being obese. Overweight and obesity affects more than one in three children, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A poor diet also contributes to tooth decay, anemia and osteoporosis.
Overhauling a child's poor diet is the key to reducing the risk of health problems and poor school performance. Children should eat a variety of foods from all the food groups at meals and snacks, including fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy and whole grains. These foods cover a child's needs for fiber, vitamins A and C, iron, calcium and heart healthy fats. In addition, children should be getting at least 30 minutes of daily exercise to supplement their healthy eating habits. Limiting poor nutritional foods leaves plenty of room in a child's stomach to fill up on nutrient dense foods.