Today I want to talk about what we feed our children. 

We are facing an epidemic on a scale never seen before.

Our children are becoming increasingly obese. In Australia alone, “the number of overweight children in Australia has doubled in recent years, with a quarter of children considered overweight or obese.”  (From betterhealth.vic.gov.au).

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We asked Iman Salam, who has three grown children of her own, from Afiya Live Well to answer a few questions about the importance of eating nutritious food and instilling good eating habits in our children.

What impact does eating junk food have on children’s physical, mental and spiritual well-being?

Junk food has a highly addictive nature for children. Although it can look appealing and of course taste great, children simply do not realise the ill effects it has on their health, as well as on their growing bodies. The physical and spiritual complications are many; obesity, diabetes, chronic illness,  low self esteem, and even depression.

What are some of the problematic eating habits amongst families that you have seen?

Not eating as a family. I’ve heard of families grabbing food and everyone eating in their own corner, on their phone, or in front of the tv. This not only causes a breakdown in family relations but eating in front of an electronic device creates an unhealthy relationship with food as well as a habit of mindless eating.

Second, the emphasis put on finishing your plate, food as reward, etc creates a long-lasting negative relationship with food. Often times being forced to clean our plates as children develops into emotional eating, overeating, and eating disorders. A healthy way to start each meal is to remember to praise God, make the intention to get the most benefit out of the meal and start with a small serving. Just as important is listening to your body and knowing when to stop before you get full.

How can parents instil positive eating habits in their children?

Children learn from seeing so therefore setting an example is the best way to teach our children. Teaching children the value of food and where it comes from is important. It helps to reconnect the child to the earth and have a deeper appreciation for nature as well as the food that is put into their bodies. Don’t be afraid to get your kids to help in the kitchen and give them small tasks that they can do to help prepare dinner. This will give them a sense of ownership and pride and make them more likely to eat what they’ve helped in preparing.

What types of food should children not be eating? 

SUGAR!!!!! (artificial).  You would be surprised to learn that it’s in everything, even toothpaste. Be aware of the different names for sugar. I know what you’re thinking, “it’s hard to avoid.” If you focus on what is in your control, your own home, then when kids are at their grandparent’s house or at a birthday party, you won’t feel so bad that they are most probably going to eat sugar.  Cut back on the amount of meat and milk as tons of hormones are injected into these animals and this is causing life-long damage on their growing bodies

How important is it to eat organic foods?

Eating organic foods is important in this day and age. No doubt, it can get expensive. Decide what you can and cannot afford for your family’s needs and work accordingly within those boundaries. Being educated on the ill-effects of consuming non-organic meat is important. If that means cutting back on meat, then do what you think is best for your family. As Muslims we are held accountable for the food we eat and that includes the care of animals. When it comes to whether something is deemed “halal”, we often forget that it includes more than just the way the animal is slaughtered but how it was raised and the conditions it was in before being slaughtered.

Saltanat Bora is the editor of The Modest Bride. This article was originally published in themodestlife.co.