How healthy are the eating habits of children? – Surveillance results from WHO/Europe
Good eating habits can significantly reduce the risk of overweight and obesity in children
On 4. March is World Obesity Day and to mark the occasion WHO/Europe is drawing attention to the urgent need to promote healthy eating habits among children. This recommendation is based on the results of Round 4 of the WHO European Region's Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI), recently published in an article in the journal Nutrients, and in a WHO/Europe fact sheet summarizing the data.
Eating habits of children
According to the results, which reflect the dietary habits of 132 489 children, 78.8% of children eat breakfast in the morning, 42.5% of children eat fresh fruit every day and 22.6% of children eat fresh vegetables every day. 10.3% consume sweet snacks every day and 9.4% soft drinks. However, there are considerable differences in eating habits from country to country.
Overall, WHO's findings from this study highlight the need for urgent action to promote healthy eating habits among children in all countries in the European Region, particularly to increase daily consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.
"A healthy diet also includes a high intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, eating breakfast every day, and avoiding routine consumption of nutrient-poor foods high in sugar, saturated fat, trans fat, and salt," explains Dr. Kremlin Wickramasinghe, Acting Director of the Programme on Diet, Physical Activity and Obesity at WHO/Europe.
Nutrition for a healthy life
Healthy eating is one of the pillars of non-communicable disease prevention. Poor nutrition, overweight and obesity are among the main risk factors for cardiovascular disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death in the WHO European Region.
"A healthy diet is especially important for elementary school-aged children. Establishing healthy eating habits early in life can significantly reduce the risk of overweight and obesity in children and lead to better health for years to come," explains Dr. Carina Ferreira-Borges, acting director of the WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (Noncommunicable Diseases Technical Centre) and director of the Alcohol and Illicit Drugs and Prison Health Program.
As a contribution to the healthy growth and development of children in the European Region, the Center for Noncommunicable Diseases produced a fact sheet summarizing the publication on the dietary habits of children aged 6-9 years. This research used data from 23 countries that participated in the 4 between 2015 and 2017.