They are sweet and savory, served in small sizes and sold in supermarkets and shops along several streets. Every morning, parents purchase and pack them into bags and baby boxes for their children.
Snacks as they are called, have become regular features in the bags of children, but it is emerging that instead of aiding the growth of children into future leaders, some of them are small bullets killing them slowly.
What do you feed your children with; food that is killing them slowly or food that protects them against diseases?
Do you fill their lunch boxes with fruits and vegetables to boost their immune system or sugary snacks and beverages which are harmful to their health?
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables has been scientifically proven to provide numerous health benefits, such as reducing the risk of several chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiac arrest, hypertension and cancer among others.
Keeping the body healthy is the sole responsibility of every adult, however when it comes to the welfare of children, parents or guardians play major roles in that regard.
Ensuring the general wellbeing of children must be made a priority to enable them to live healthy lives.
Sadly, modernisation and the love for fast food has made many parents guilty of exposing their wards to dangerous chemicals in the form of preservatives, artificial food colours among other unhealthy ingredients put in snacks to prolong their shelf life.
Shelves of supermarkets are filled with processed foods with preservatives and additives that are not kind to our health. When we are not cooking at home it is cheeseburger or fries for dinner.
What we feed the children today would determine the kind of leader we would have tomorrow. We would not want to have a generation of leaders who would be down with chronic diseases.
These days, parents and guardians have developed a habit of giving snack packs almost every day.
These packs are given to the children for consumption during snack breaks in school each day and this shows that the risk of contact consumption of such products has been totally ignored.
Imagine you include a sugary beverage in your children’s lunch box every day, five times a week for a year, what do you think you are doing to them?
Many health advocates have described unhealthy snacks as poisons so I would not be wrong to say our children who are given such snacks everyday are being fed poison each day!
When you think about the effect this type of diet can have on your health, it’s troubling. It’s of little wonder the rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other metabolic diseases have increased steadily over the last few years.
The Immediate past Director of Nutrition at the Ghana Health Service, Ms Esi Foriwa Amoaful, has advised parents to replace artificial snacks with fruits and vegetables for their children.
This, she said, would help save children from some chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension which have become a source of concern.
Ms Amoaful also a Public Health Specialist in an interview with the Ghanaian Times expressed worry at the rate at which children consume processed foods with preservatives and additives that were not kind to their health, adding that the act of feeding was killing children, who were the future leaders.
“Nowadays children go to school with snack boxes and the content of such packs include soft drinks or fruit juices and other sugary stuff with preservatives and pastries made with refined flours,” she said.
She said though parents were busy with their work and other related issues, they must have time to prepare food for their children, rather than buying food prepared outside.
“Prepare food at home with more vegetables, less fat, blend your own fruit and vegetables or cut your fruits, you can wash Banana and put in your child snack pack, no need to put these soft drinks or sweets in their boxes, so as much as possible feed them locally available foods which are rich in nutrient.
“You can prepare beans cakes locally known as ‘Koose’, soya bean milk or khebab, fruit salad, smoothie among others and these would help the children to grow up and be get used to eating these healthy things throughout their lives,” she said.
Ms Amoaful said Fruits and vegetables are a great source of vitamins and minerals which help develop the general wellbeing of children.
“Fruits and vegetables contain minerals such as Vitamins which prevent children from stunted growth, develops their cognitive ability, prevents them from childhood diseases such as diabetes,” she said
Eating fruits and vegetables, she said, was the surest way to improve one’s health and the ability to save money which would have been used in treating sickness.
According to her, no child was born to like any sugary drink “it is what we give to our children. Indeed if you ever tasted breast milk, breast milk is not sweet so when these children arrive they get used to breast milk, therefore if we wean them off breast milk we should feed them with food without sugar”.
Ms Amoaful said when children began to eat solid foods, sometimes they refused to eat, not necessarily that the food is not delicious or sweet, but learning to eat any food was an act that needed time and patience.
She said mothers should not be in a hurry to add sugar or sweetener to their child’s food to lure them to eat but rather have patience and feed them well.
Ms Amoaful raised concerns about overweight and obesity among children and adolescents due to consumption of fatty and chunk foods.
According to the Ghana Health Service, more than 800 children were diagnosed with diabetes in 2021 in three major teaching hospitals in the country; namely Korle-Bu, Okomfo Anokye and Cape Coast.
According to the World Health Organisation, Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood glucose. Hyperglycaemia, also called raised blood glucose or raised blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and over time leads to serious damage to many of the body’s systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels.
In 2014, 8.5 per cent of adults aged 18 years and older had diabetes. In 2019, diabetes was the direct cause of 1.5 million deaths and 48 per cent of all deaths due to diabetes occurred before the age of 70 years. Another 460 000 kidney disease deaths were caused by diabetes, and raised blood glucose causes around 20 per of cardiovascular deaths.
Between 2000 and 2019, there was a three per cent increase in age-standardized mortality rates from diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes (previously known as insulin-dependent, juvenile or childhood-onset) is characterized by deficient insulin production and requires daily administration of insulin.
Symptoms include excessive excretion of urine (polyuria), thirst (polydipsia), constant hunger, weight loss, vision changes, and fatigue.
Type 2 diabetes results from the body’s ineffective use of insulin. More than 95 per cent of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. This type of diabetes is largely the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity.
Symptoms may be similar to those of type 1 diabetes but are often less marked. As a result, the disease may be diagnosed several years after onset, after complications have already arisen.
Until recently, this type of diabetes was seen only in adults but it is now also occurring increasingly frequently in children.
Gestational diabetes is hyperglycaemia with blood glucose values above normal but below those diagnostic of diabetes. Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy
Women with gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of complications during pregnancy and at delivery.
By Agnes Opoku Sarpong