Children’s health and development is driven by a healthy environment and balanced eating habits. This is quite an evidence for everyone but, in real life, family healthy eating habits are not always easy to achieve every day. However, yogurt, nutrient-dense food, also well appreciated by kids, may help…
Read on for new perspectives from experts at the latest YINI conference at the Nutrimad 2018.
Dietary patterns among European children
Before going on the ways of building early healthy eating habits in children, Prof. Luis Moreno (University of Zaragoza, Spain) presented data about health situation of children and adolescents from several European countries, specifically on eating habits and dietary patterns.
If recent reports show that obesity rate varies from 10 to 22% among European children and is growing, several studies are promoting interesting dietary ways to act.
Among the different foods groups, the researchers of the HELENA Study (Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence) examined the association between dairy/yogurt intake and adiposity in children and adolescents. They also reviewed measurements of CVD risk factors, cardiorespiratory fitness, dietary intakes and time on sedentary behaviors and found an inverse association between consumption of yogurt and of milk- and yogurt-based beverages and some CVD risk factors, especially total and abdominal excess body fat. This may be partly because young people are choosing sugary drinks in preference to dairy products.
Other studies have shown different protective dietary habits:
- Choosing a Mediterranean diet, characterized by high intake of vegetables and wholemeal cereals are protective for the development of obesity in European children,
- Having dinner with the family is also a protective factor for obesity in children and adolescents whereas, skipping breakfast has been identified as a risk factor for obesity development both in cross-sectional and longitudinal studies.
Based on the recent data, for Luis Moreno:
there are ways to act among children and help them build healthy eating habits in families, by promoting four meals per day, including breakfast, every day.
yogurt can be an interesting vehicle to help build healthy eating habits, in example as associated with fruits or for specific meal time as breakfast.
The interesting combination of yogurt and fruits
Everybody knows the benefits associated to daily fruits and vegetables consumption linked to high fiber, vitamins, antioxidants components. There is also no doubt that dairy products including yogurt provide a range of important nutrients (calcium, protein and other micro- and macro-nutrients) and benefits associated to its fermentation process.
Andre Marette (Laval University, Quebec) shared recent evidence about the interesting symbiosis provided by the consumption of yogurt and fruits.
Indeed, fruits consumption takes part of numerous dietary guidelines worldwide. Their energy density are relatively low, they provide a variety of antioxidants, contains prebiotic fibers, which are beneficial for healthy colonic fermentation and have shown interesting protecting effects on cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Fruits consumption, as well as yogurt consumption, is associated with healthier dietary pattern. Yogurt and fruits are also both nutrient dense foods!
André Marette emphasis the fact that combining yogurt with fruits could be a promising mixture with the potential to exert synergistic effects on health:
Yogurt consumption is associated with reduced weight gain and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
Fruits consumption is recognized as a dietary factor linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
The association of yogurt and fruits may confer combined health benefits through potential prebiotic and probiotic effect, as both fermented dairy products and polyphenol rich foods (e.g. fruits) are associated with increased gut microbiota diversity, a marker of intestinal and metabolic health
It can also be considered as a winning combination for substituting nutrient-poor and/or obesogenic foods.
How to build a daily healthy breakfast for children
Based on those presented data, Ana Maria Lopez Sobaler (Complutense University, Spain) focused on the interest of bringing a daily breakfast, combining fruits and yogurt, to help children build healthy eating habits.
Indeed, numerous studies are linking the habit of eating breakfast with a better nutritional status and better health in general:
- In the ALADINO study (Spanish children between 6 and 9 years of age), skipping breakfast regularly was associated with a higher BMI and a higher percentage of obesity.
- Eating breakfast was also associated with better diet quality in school-age children and a higher intake of nutrients in general.
This highlights the role of this meal as a vehicle for foods that do not tend to be eaten at other times of the day or that are eaten in insufficient quantities.
A good quality breakfast is defined by the inclusion of cereals, dairy products and fruit in the meal as a minimum. However, fewer than 3% of the Spanish schoolchildren in the ALADINO study included these three food groups in their normal breakfast. The average consumption of dairy products and fruit was low, and a high percentage of schoolchildren and adolescents had an insufficient intake of nutrients such as Calcium, Folate or Vitamin D.
For Ana Maria Lopez-Sobaler:
Breakfast is associated with better body composition and dietary quality
Having yogurt at breakfast could be beneficial:
Yogurt is a nutrient dense food
Yogurt consumption is associated with higher intake of fruit and whole cereals
Yogurt provides the benefits of a probiotic
Combining yogurt and fruit at breakfast could help to improve fruit intake, and provide a synbiotic effect