Prof. Lauren Ball: Growing Up Strong — Kid-Friendly Nutrition Tips | Raising Parents #37

In this episode, host Dina Sargeant is joined by Prof. Lauren Ball, a distinguished community health and well-being professor at the University of Queensland

Childhood obesity has become a widespread issue globally, with an increasing number of children facing health risks associated with excess weight. Addressing childhood obesity requires promoting healthy eating habits early on, encouraging children to consume a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins while minimizing sugary drinks, processed foods, and high-fat snacks.

Meet Prof. Lauren Ball

As a researcher, Prof. Lauren Ball’s work shapes how communities thrive through health and well-being. She is a Community Health and Wellbeing Professor at The University of Queensland. Her team is internationally acclaimed and has received several awards and accolades for research excellence.

As a leader, she inspires people and organizations to imagine a more prosperous future. She brings people together and harnesses their collective ability to create innovative solutions to complex challenges.

As a strategist, she has a fresh and engaging approach to developing a shared vision, mapping the path, celebrating achievement, and transforming improbable goals into realistic expectations.

About the episode

Countries have varying recommendations for healthy eating, often based on the population’s needs. In Australia, for instance, the Nutrient Reference Values (NRVs) provide a comprehensive guide to the required vitamins and minerals for different ages and genders. This scientific foundation translates into simpler messages for the public, such as the importance of consuming fruits and vegetables.

These are the key nutrients for children, according to Prof. Lauren:

  • Iron: Essential for growth and development, iron deficiency is common among children. Sources include red meat, and, in some cases, supplements may be necessary.
  • Calcium: Crucial for bone development, found in dairy products, calcium-fortified milk alternatives, and certain seeds and nuts.
  • Vegetables: Rich in micronutrients like vitamins B, C, D, and folate, vegetables are vital for daily functioning and development.

She also shared that introducing various foods early on, including through methods like baby-led weaning, can help children develop a taste for different textures and flavors. Maintaining exposure to various foods, even if initially rejected, is crucial. Strategies such as offering the same food in different forms can also be effective.

For Prof. Lauren, a common misconception is that a child’s dislike of a certain food is permanent. It’s important not to label foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ but rather emphasize moderation and the nutritional value of fresh, less-processed foods.

She also shared that involving children in meal planning can help cater to everyone’s needs while ensuring a balanced diet. Games like guessing the ingredients in a dish can make children more aware and accepting of different foods. Parents’ eating habits can also significantly influence their children’s food choices. 

In conclusion

Fostering healthy eating habits in children is not just about ensuring they consume the right nutrients; it’s also about teaching them to have a positive relationship with food. This involves exposure to various foods, debunking myths about nutrition, and engaging in practical strategies that encourage healthy eating within the family dynamic.

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