74% of PH kids eat less veggies, fruits – study
MANILA, Philippines — The food environment in the country, which affects people’s food choices and eating habits was “failing” children and driving a high prevalence of overweight and obesity, a recent study by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) showed.
In a report that focused on the “lived experiences” of children from Catbalogan, Gandara, Godod, Mondragon, Valenzuela, and Zamboanga, Unicef found that Filipino children were eating fewer fruits and vegetables, and more sugar, salty and fatty products.
“The study areas were selected because they were already Unicef-assisted areas with high levels of malnutrition (undernutrition and/or overweight) based on 2019 survey findings,” it said.
Citing the World Health Organization’s 2015 school-based student health survey in the Philippines, the report noted that 74 percent of children aged 13 to 15 years old consume less than three portions of vegetables daily, while 28 percent drink at least one soft drink a day.“Poor diets are contributing to a triple burden of malnutrition with undernutrition, in the form of poor growth and micronutrient deficiencies, co-existing with increasing rates of overweight,” the Unicef said.
“This triple burden of malnutrition is being driven by systems that are failing to provide children with adequate diets, space to play and exercise, access to safe water and hygienic environments and financial security,” it added.
In the 2021 Expanded National Nutrition Survey of the Department of Science and Technology’s Food Nutrition Research Institute, one in every five, or 19.7 percent of school-age children were found to be stunted.
Stunting, which happens when a child has impaired growth and development due to poor nutrition, was significantly higher in rural areas and in the households of poor (23.2 percent) to poorest (32.7 percent).
Nutritious diet needed
Malnutrition, according to Unicef Philippines representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov, was a “serious violation” of a child’s right and could likewise result in long-term consequences for a kid’s health, development, and well-being.
“Children need a varied and nutritious diet for their growth and development and caregivers need support to provide their children with a healthy diet,” she said.
The report created four child profiles based on the data gathered from the communities and represented the collective experience of many kids from the same location and age.
Bea, one of the children in the storybook-like report, was a 9-month-old girl from Gandara where nearly half of the population lived below the poverty line. Her mother, who uses a mixed feeding method (breast, bottle, family food, and commercial complementary food), changed her milk brand saying the previous one was more expensive and did not provide the nutrients that Bea needed.
“While she has plenty of knowledge, it is easy to get swayed by labels saying that breast milk substitutes will help Bea to grow stronger … And just like Bea’s mom, poor families pay extra for milk formula, commercial baby foods, and bottled water because they believe that this is better for their babies’ health and will help them to grow,” the report said.
Gov’t role takes spotlight as Unicef says more overweight PH kids face health nightmares
Instant-noodle diet harms Asian kids
PH schoolkids feeding program must keep going–USDA
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.