Healthy child, happy child

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baby food

The world is becoming more and more obsessed about healthy diet and while shopping in the supermarkets we see more and more people standing in the aisles between the food shelves carefully reading tiny letters on colorful packages. These letters inform us what amount of total fat, protein, cholesterol or sodium we consume while eating our meal.

And this is only natural. The more we get aware about all possible diseases that can be caused by unhealthy food, the more eager we get to control what is going down to our stomach. But even more eagerly we try to protect from unhealthy food the ones who we care for the most  our children.

Parenting is a serious and tricky business and healthy eating is its essential part. There even are special programs teaching parents how to feed a child or how to work out the best diet for them. One would think that some parents are exaggerating the seriousness of the problem – just give your child fresh vegetables and all kinds of non-organic meal every day, keep them away from sweets and fast food and your job is done!

But all is not that simple. Children have their own needs and their primary concern about food is to taste delicious. So on the one hand, we have parents desperately trying to give their children something healthy which at times is not so tasty and on the other hand, a child who does not care about the amount of the proteins in their dish and just wants fast food, carbonated drinks and sweets for dinner.

But is it really a big responsibility to guarantee healthy food for our children? Parents obviously cannot make healthy food taste good enough for children, unless they work in the companies who produce those products. So yes, food companies are the other side of the coin and they are well aware of the need to please their clients who at the same time happen to be the cautious parents. As a result they constantly try to take out more and more unhealthy ingredients, like sugar, from their recipes and add healthier ones, like vitamins, in them. Reason is obvious prettier your recipe looks, longer are the sale numbers.

General Mills Inc, one of the largest food companies in the world, prioritises focusing on the healthiness of its products as the best marketing move. Company’s main motive, – Our mission is to nourish every one by making their lives healthier, easier and richer. During 2011, 56 % of the net income of the company came from the products labeled as better for you.

But making the products healthy still has its limits. For example, one of the challenges General Mills Inc. faces is making children’s cereals healthier by reducing the sugar to the lowest level possible. As a result, in most of the cereals, which are meant to be the breakfast for thousands of children all over the world, the amount of the sugar dropped from 15 to 10 grams. But this is it – less sugar will make cereal no longer appetitive for children.

Some think that 10 grams of sugar is still too much. “They say they’ve gotten most cereals down to 10 grams of sugar per serving, but since a serving size is only 30 grams or less, a third of that serving is still sugar,” says Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, a food watchdog. “Food companies make healthier cereals with very little sugar for adults, so why can’t they make and market healthier cereal to kids?”

Susan Crockett, the head of the company’s Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition, a nutrition-research division explains why reducing the sugar level reached its dead end: “We know that right around nine grams of sugar per serving, you’re at the breaking point where the sugar level is so low that the sweetness is not enough for a kid to eat it on day two after trying it on day one. We’re close to the sweetness threshold in cereal.

The amount of sugar in children’s cereals is a tiny part of the picture. The world food market is full of such dilemmas. Food companies try hard to please all needs of their customers but at that point this mission seems to be quite difficult as what the customer wants is not only their children’s happy smile, but this smile to glimmer on their healthy faces and rosy cheeks.

But before scientists come up with fresh ideas on how to make children’s food taste good to them, we all need to continue keeping an eye on what food companies are offering us in their recipes and prefer vegetables over cakes and fresh fruit juice over sodas.

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