The food we give our children may be suitable in terms of quantity and quality. But at the same time, it may expose them to risks.
When would food be inappropriate for our children?
Food would be inappropriate to our children in the following cases:
• If it is unsuitable for the child’s age.
For each age, there is a kind of food that suits it. If we give them food that does not suit their age, it would be harmful to them, like giving spicy or too salty foods or meat to babies, who still do not have the ability to digest such foods. This may expose them to digestive problems.
• The food may be unsuitable for the children if they themselves have no desire for it.
The food with benefit for the children is that which they prefer and like, and not that which they are forced to eat. A lot of children do not drink milk, given its great benefit for their growth. But it may be served to them added to some kinds of sweets and foods which they like. In this way, we could give the child what we like in the very manner and form he likes.
We could also give them an alternative for the sweet that is sold in the market that may cause them health problems, by making many kinds of sweets in the house, and convincing the children that this is better for them.
• Food may be also unsuitable if it is not fresh.
Food that has gone off is that which is not fit for human consumption, due to the damage of some of its components or its contamination. This may cause food poisoning that can lead to death.
In some cases, food may be off but with no change in its taste, color and smell, as appears in some kinds of food to be publicized while being off by adding some color, smell and food flavors.
The question that is now raised: When does food become stale and unfit for human consumption?
Food may become off in many stages including:
- The way the food is manufactured
- The way the food is served
- The way the food is stored
As far as the method of manufacturing food is concerned, the excessive use of additives, preservatives, colors, fragrances and food flavors, as well as the other chemical substances which are used now in great quantities in the manufacture of popular food items and sweets liked by children, leads to the contamination of those foods. This may expose the child to the risks of food poisoning. Food contamination may go back to the contamination of the equipment used when manufacturing it, and negligence to clean them; or to the fact that the manufacturer does not meet the health and hygiene standards, like suffering an infectious disease which could be transmitted to the food. This happens a lot in restaurants and fast food outlets.
As far as the method of serving food is concerned, peddlers often serve foods and drinks in an unhealthy way. Foods are uncovered which exposes them to dust and makes them attractive to flies and other insects. In this way, the food is contaminated by harmful microbes and dust. The one who eats this food is susceptible to food poisoning.
As far as the method of storing food is concerned, the suitability of a lot of foods is limited by an expiry date, after which they should not be stored, since it leads to their corruption, and becoming unfit for human consumption.
But in many cases, foods might become rotten before their expiry date due to storing them incorrectly, or in places that are unfit for storage. This, therefore, may expose anyone who eats such foods to the risk of food poisoning.
How do we protect our children from food risks?
There are many preventive measures to be followed since prevention is better than cure.
First: Concerning the nature of the food we give to our children, we should do our best, as much as possible, to forbid our children from doing the following:
• To use their teeth when crushing nuts and hard foods; instead, such foods should be served to them ready to eat.
• To have too salty and too spicy foods, except rarely, even though it is preferable to be prevent young children from eating such foods at all.
• To eat a lot of sweets and sugary foods.
• To eat too many cold foods and ice-cream, and also to eat food that is too hot; as hot food should be cooled first.
• To eat raw, uncooked or unripe foods.
• To eat food that is too hot or too cold simultaneously, or foods that is too salty or spicy and too sugary.
We have to include the different kinds and groups of food in the meals of our children.
Second: Concerning the quantity of food to be served to our children:
• To forbid our children from consuming large quantities of food even if they have the appetite for that.
• To serve food to our children in suitable quantities, with neither addition to nor reduction from what is required.
Third: Concerning the variety of food to be presented to our children:
• To provide our children with balanced meals that contain the basic elements (proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, sugars and minerals).
• To make a balance between the different nutritional elements in the children's meals and not to focus on some to the exclusion of others.
Fourth: Concerning the suitability of food to be presented to our children:
• To present to our children the foods that are suitable for their age, and help them abstain from foods that are not suitable for their age even though they like them.
• To forbid our children from eating excessive amounts of food that contain preservatives and added substances (color, smell and food flavors), such as gum, chocolate, sweet, and so on.
• To prevent our children from eating uncovered foods and from buying food from street vendors.
• To check the expiry date of foods before giving them to children.
• To store foods in our houses according to the correct rules of storage.