What Are We Doing to Our Kids?

I just completed a home study course in order to get continuing education credits for my Dental Hygiene license.  I chose to read a book called Scientific Advances Regarding: Sugar, Salt, & Fat by Gina Willett, Ph.D.,R.D.  I cried multiple times throughout the book. Doesn’t sound like a tear jerker I know, but I kept comparing how my kids eat to the statistics in the book.  If you know me you know that I eat clean whole foods 80% of the time.  Why do I allow my children to eat whatever they want?  Why do I buy processed food for them to eat?  Great questions, the answer is:  I don’t know. But I should stop doing it!

We’ve all heard by now that sugar is as addictive as cocaine.  Sugar isn’t the only substance in our food that is addictive.  Manufacturers also add salt and fat to make an irresistible trifecta called hyperpalatable foods.  These foods affect our brains the same way drugs and alcohol do.  Studies show that “just the sight, smell or taste of these foods triggers a series of sensory, metabolic, and neurochemical responses in the brain” that scream for you to eat it and eat lots of it.  Your brain releases a chemical called dopamine- the feel good chemical.  The more hyperpalatable foods we eat the more dopamine our brains produce, causing us to want that feeling more often. Creating that craving weather we are hungry or not.  Which can then lead to overeating, eating compulsively, loss of control and obesity.  All things that create huge health risks.

What causes us to put these “food-like substances” in our mouths to begin with?  We are biologically wired to seek out sugar, in early times sweetness signified good calories and nutrients like ripe fruit.  Fruits and veggies provide fiber which gives us that feeling of fullness.  People needed this to live healthy, long lives.  Food manufacturers have grossly exploited this natural trait. By refining sugar, fat and salts the nutrients are taken out of the foods and leaving us craving high caloric, non-nutritious food. We can get whatever food we want at the grocery store, the unhealthy food tends to be cheaper because of the low quality fillers it’s loaded with.  

Some people are clinically proven to be more susceptible to these types of foods, meaning they are more likely to be addicted to them.  It has to do with a decreased sensitivity of the dopamine reward system.  Repeated exposure to hyperpalatable foods, genetics and environment are all factors that cause addiction to foods that are not healthy.  

Why does this generation have the shortest life expectancy in decades?  Because the majority of the population is eating these “food-like substances”. We’re giving into the marketing and advertising our children are exposed to daily and the convenience of fast food. Eating moderate amounts of hyperpalatable food causes’ heart disease, diabetes, malnutrition, hypertension, the list goes on and on.  Our bodies were not meant to thrive on processed foods.

How do we fix this problem?  We need to buy whole, nutritious foods for our families. Limit sugar, salt and fat intake to safe levels needed to sustain health. Lead our children by example and educate them.   

I remember how I ate as a teenager- Snickers, Doritos and Diet Pepsi were my go to foods. As I aged and realized what I ate directly affected my jean size as well as how I felt and performed. I could never accomplish the things I do in the gym if I ate poorly every day. My kids are teens and they “know it all”, but I do my best to encourage them to eat fruits and veggies, and lean protein at every meal. Hopefully they will have the same realizations as I did before it causes irreversible effects on their health.  I highly encourage everyone to read up on this topic, it’s a scary one, but very important.  

Coach Kelly