Processed Foods: Kids Nutrition Education
With Faux Food Models
September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, a great time to focus on children’s nutrition education to foster healthier eating habits.
Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States, where nearly 20 percent of children and teens ages 2–19 are obese. Childhood overweight and obesity increase the risk for chronic health issues during adulthood, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Young people with obesity are also at increased risk for a variety of physical health issues, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and impaired glucose tolerance.
Many factors affect increased rates of obesity for children and adults. One factor receiving increased scrutiny is the wide availability of processed foods. However, what are processed foods, and are processed foods always unhealthy?
Read on to learn more about processed foods, why knowing about different types of processed foods can help kids make better nutritional choices, and how Health Edco faux food models are a fun way to teach kids about processed and nutrient-dense foods.
What Are Processed Foods?
Processed foods are any foods that have been altered from their original state, whether they’ve been washed, cooked, frozen, canned, packaged, dried, flavored, had preservatives added, or changed in any other way. Basically, whenever food is prepared for consumption, it becomes a processed food.
Nutritionists sometimes consider processed foods on a classification scale from the least to the most processed:
- Natural or minimally processed foods: This group includes foods that have been taken directly from a plant or animal source and have not been altered or foods that have undergone minimal alteration from their original states, such as being cleaned, frozen, dried, pasteurized, or vacuum-sealed. Nothing has been added to these foods. A few examples include carrots, apples, milk, raw nuts, fresh berries, eggs, and chilled or frozen meat.
- Processed cooking ingredients: This group includes items extracted from nature and meant to be added to food during preparation and items generally not consumed on their own. Some examples include salt, household sugar, butter, honey, cornstarch, rapeseed oil, and table vinegar.
- Processed foods: This group includes natural or minimally processed foods that have had processed cooking ingredients, such as salt or sugar, added. Often, they have just two or three ingredients and may have been processed by baking, smoking, fermenting, or some other method. Examples include fruits packaged in syrup, homemade bread, and canned fish.
- Ultra-processed foods: These foods often involve a considerable amount of manufacturing and fall less into a single food group. Typically, they are high in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium. Examples include premade, microwavable meals; frozen pizza; fries; chocolates; cola; and frozen desserts, to name a few.
Why Is Teaching Kids About Processed Foods Important?
Clearly, we all eat processed foods. In fact, almost all the food we eat is processed in some way. However, more heavily processed foods tend to be less nutrient-dense and have higher amounts of fat, added sugars, and sodium. The fat, added sugars, and sodium may make them taste better and extend their shelf life, but these foods may also encourage you to eat extra calories and sodium, which may contribute to excess body weight and higher blood pressure.
Teaching children about different types of processed foods, how to read food labels, and how to choose foods lower in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium can set them up for better lifelong eating habits and health.
Kids Nutrition Education With Health Edco Faux Food Models
Health Edco faux food models are a fun way to teach kids about essential nutrition topics, including processed foods. Kids and adults of all ages love our faux food models because of their great texture, colorful appeal, and realistic appearance. All of our Health Edco food model packages include nutrition information cards that detail nutrition facts for each food.
Featuring 39 foods, our Faux Foods Diabetic Exchange Package is an ideal package to teach kids and adults about processed foods as well as to teach patients with diabetes about dietary choices. Among the 39 foods are many great options to teach about different levels of processed foods, such as:
- Natural or minimally processed foods: Some examples in the package include banana, green grapes, fat-free milk, orange juice, tossed salad, whole-wheat pasta, banana, and watermelon.
- Processed cooking ingredients: Butter pats represent this group.
- Processed foods: Some examples in the set include fried egg, mashed potatoes, turkey slice, applesauce, canned peas, and canned baked beans.
- Ultra-processed foods: Some examples in the set include hot dog, hot dog bun, sausage/pepperoni pizza, yellow sheet cake, vanilla ice cream, chocolate chip cookie, and brownie.
Focusing on Foods Lower in Added Sugars, Saturated Fat, and Sodium
Classifying foods on a scale from least processed to ultra-processed can be a helpful way to begin considering whether a particular food is a healthier option, but the scale has limitations. Not all foods fit neatly into a particular category. For example, canned vegetables may be considered examples of processed foods, especially if they have added sugars or sodium, as is sometimes the case with canned peas or baked beans. But, not all canned vegetables contain added sugars or sodium, making them healthier options as processed foods.
For this reason, reading food labels on packaged foods and choosing options that are lower in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium is important in making healthier food choices.
Our Junk Food Model Set Display is a great way to teach young people and adults about ultra-processed foods and the importance of reading food labels. The display includes 10 food models of ultra-processed foods (such as a chocolate bar, cake doughnut, hot dog, and cola) and a two-panel folding display with tips for making healthier food options, including reading food labels and looking for options lower in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium.
Of course, having so-called “junk food” as an occasional treat is generally OK as part of a healthy lifestyle focused on nutrient-dense foods and regular physical activity.
Find More Great Faux Food Model Packages
Health Edco has a wide range of faux food packages and teaching sets covering the variety of food groups to specific nutrition issues, such as portion size, dietary fat, and added sugars. Discover more faux food models in our nutrition education section.
The information contained in this newsletter is not intended to replace the advice of a healthcare professional.
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