Carlos Casabona


"Healthy habits are only learned through education and example"

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People make lots of mistakes in how they eat, but often they are not the fault of the family but rather due to lack of information. The packaging of supermarkets products have labels. And they have curious sentences on them: "With vitamins, to help you grow," but they are not products that are actually healthy. I forgive mothers who want their children to eat perfectly. In the first two years, that is a little obsessive. You have to look at it from the age of four or five, when they start a more social diet. The child starts to go to school, sees what the other children are taking for lunch or tea, and the guard goes down. They start with the pastries and juices... The most frequent mistakes are induced by aggressive advertising, which sometimes is on the border of legality. Other mistakes that we make are due to excess indulgence. We think that our children will not be happy if we don't give them that chocolate croissant that they are asking for when we are at the supermarket.

We have spent 20 years making a lot of mistakes, both induced and as the product of an obesogenic environment, of overeating, where we eat more than we need, above all eating poorly. These consequences are being seen in teenagers aged 16 or 18, and 25-year-olds. Obesity and excess is already common among young people, who have blood pressure problems, high blood sugar, type 2 diabetes, sometimes osteoarticular problems, and more cardiovascular problems are occurring in people between thirty and forty years old than ever before. What is particularly important and sad is that the World Health Organization and many experts are already telling us that we may be raising the first generation of children with a shorter life expectancy than us.

We all thinking in the same direction: teach self-learning to know how to think critically and be able to choose healthy foods. It is good that children go shopping with their parents — it would be better to go to the market than the supermarket, but we don't live in a perfect world. The food industry isn't that bad; it just wants to sell but it does not want its customers to die. We should remember that they make life easier for us: for example, right now they sell loads of varieties of lettuce in different packaging, and that can help us. It is possible to choose healthy items in the supermarket.

A study found that three family meals create communication, a calm and caring environment and no music or screens. They have determined that self-regulation of children of any age causes fewer weight problems and healthier eating habit.

"A recent study has determined that eating as a family three times a week reduces the risk of obesity"

We do not need white industrial sugar. The brain does not need sugar; the brain needs glucose, and this glucose can be extracted from fruits, vegetables, potatoes, which is starch, which we then break down. Industrial sugar is not necessary, okay? Sugar is now a hidden presence in charcuterie, ham, sauces, breakfast cereals, yogurt and drinking yogurt.

Free sugar, as the WHO says, behaves metabolically in an unsuitable and unhealthy way, not like if you eat an orange. Why is that? It is about fiber; if you eat an orange, you chew it and even as you chew, you are releasing intestinal neuropeptides that will prepare digestion. And when you eat an orange, an apple or a banana, which all have fiber, you feel full. That doesn't happen when you drink juice. Sugary drinks have been linked to weight gain and obesity — it is a very clear relationship. The WHO advises sugar should represent 5% of total calories, and a maximum of 25 grams. A can of a soda can be 30, and an orange juice of three oranges can have the same as a soda.

Diet myths we peddle. There is a myth that I would like to clear up — eating a wide range of food. You even see it written in serious books or on websites that seem serious. It originated in the 60s and means that if you eat fish, meat, cereals, fruits and vegetables, there is less chance that you will miss any essential nutrient because you eat from all food groups. But now, when you say eating everything, that includes hyper-processed products, croissants, juices, cookies and sugary cereals. You have to eat everything that is healthy. Not just everything. And in the pyramid, the tip is full of candy, croissants and processed meat, and says: "Sporadic consumption". Everyone can interpret that how they want, but the pyramid says that it is about healthy eating. That pyramid is currently highly criticized. And what do those in healthcare prefer when talking about nutrition? The Harvard plate.

The Harvard plate replaces the pyramid, because we eat on plates and not on pyramids. It says: fruit and vegetables, half the plate; whole grains, a quarter of the plate; and healthy protein, the other quarter. Healthy protein is not processed meat, even though it is there. Healthy protein is legumes, tofu, nuts, eggs, fish and white meat, better than red. And what the Harvard plate tells us is that processed meats must be avoided. We find that really difficult in our country, because pork and its derivatives are a big presence in our culture. And many moms still think that the cooked ham like medicine: "It's so mild. You're not feeling well, so have some cooked ham." No. It's not poisonous, but it's processed meat. The Harvard plate have healthy proteins: Eggs, fish, white meat, legumes; whole grains: brown bread, as we have said before, brown rice, and brown pasta is also better; and we don't stop talking about fruits and vegetables. This is the Harvard healthy plate.

Author of the book "Tú eliges lo que comes," lecturer, pediatrician and public speaker, Carlos Casabona is a specialist in nutritional teaching to combat high rates of childhood obesity through education.