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An Australian doctor has called for an immediate tax on the food, warning parents of a particularly dangerous treat.

Welcome to Ask Doctor Zac, a weekly column on news.com.au. This week, Dr. Zac is embarking on healthy eating for kids.

Question:

Hello Dr Zac, I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw this meme and it reminded me of my sister.

My sister and I come from opposite worlds when it comes to feeding our children. Much like the meme, I was horrified when I recently went to his fridge and opened the door to see only processed foods. The only green thing was the moldy white bread. Our children get along very well and they tend to play all day, but I can already see a difference in their attitudes and appearances. I have the impression that intervention is called for.

Surely my sister feeding her children these processed foods will lead them down the path of serious health problems in adulthood? What is the damage of a transformed diet on a child? – Jaimie, 34, Adelaide

Reply:

We tell our children not to smoke cigarettes, but we will gladly allow them full access to the kitchen cupboard or to fast food on the way home from school.

We are what we eat and from oil-dripping cheeseburgers to sodas loaded with processed white sugar, it’s no wonder our kids and coworkers behave the way they are. I predict that eating processed foods will be the next smoking.

In fact, predicting this is like reading the lotto numbers the next day, the horse has already bolted and the crisis of food addiction is here.

Over the next 20 years, our government will spend billions of dollars explaining to the public why junk food causes heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

Unfortunately, these messages may fall on deaf ears, as the majority of them also do not reflect health and wellness.

If I were prime minister of a state, I would immediately tax all junk food and fast food restaurants by 10%, with that money going to education, health care and hospitals. Do you think I’m crazy? Well, as far as I’m concerned, it’s the impact of our unhealthy diet on our health system and our life expectancy.

The cigarette tax helps our health care system, and the gas tax helps build better roads, so why not highly processed foods, which are slowly killing us. Have you ever seen the movie Wall-E? If nothing changes, this is exactly how we will end up.

How can we prevent this dark prediction from happening? By educating our children and shaping their habits when they are young.

We should correct our own unhealthy food choices from the past by drawing a line in the sand and teaching children why it is important to eat a healthy and balanced diet of whole foods. And there is no time to waste, we have to start today.

I believe there are two main problems with feeding children these days.

First, they are subject to nutritional imbalance. Think about your diet by comparing it to a scale. The left side contains saturated fat, processed sugars, and salt, while the right side contains higher protein, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.

The diet of your sister’s children would be heavily swayed to the left, causing a myriad of short and long term side effects.

Children living with a nutritional imbalance show symptoms ranging from poor growth to obesity, mood swings, reduced concentration and increased temper tantrums. I can safely assume that your children will tend to have more energy while playing, and your sister’s will tend to become sluggish and tired quickly.

The other problem with feeding children is that it leads them down the road to obesity. Processed foods are seriously detrimental to our health and can negatively affect metabolism at the cellular level.

When children eat frozen fish fingers, they create insulin resistance and weak mitochondria which in turn cause fatigue, mood swings, and decreased concentration. Plus, processed sugars, which are high glycemic index (GI) nutrients, are the dietary equivalent of crack and stimulate many of the same addictive receptors that wreak havoc in our country with drug addiction.

Patients often come to me and say, “Why can’t I eat like I used to? As a kid, I could eat pizza and run a marathon, and now a slice adds two more layers to my chin.

They are right, the young cells are resilient but they also develop bad habits on the job. If you eat poorly as a child, your metabolism will be much worse in adulthood compared to eating healthy as a child.

Now, I understand that it is much easier to feed your child processed foods than healthy foods, but you have to realize that you are essentially giving your children a bottle of whiskey and cigarettes for dinner when you do. Your diet is one of the most important aspects of your life, it should be taken seriously even if it means that a few tears fall.

Here are some tips for getting your kids (and yourself) to eat healthy.

1. Turn your child into a boss

By safely involving your child in the cooking process, they learn more about what they eat. Make cooking a game, and you’ll find that they’d rather cook real meals than put something in an oven or microwave.

2. Presentation is key

I know it takes longer, but cutting fruits and vegetables into small pieces will make your kids eat them. You can even try cutting them into funny shapes.

3. Never give up and keep experimenting

My niece hates cooked carrots and broccoli, but loves to eat them raw! Problem solved. I’m sorry, but you owe your child the responsibility of taking care of their health. Eating healthy means that they will continue to be healthy into adulthood.

Jaimie, sit your sister down and tell her she needs to change. Share your tips and tricks with her and make a meal plan with her. Start slow and tell her to stick to the 2: 5 ratio. Two fruits and five vegetables a day.

Dr Zac Turner holds a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery from the University of Sydney. He is both a physician and co-owner of the Concierge Doctors telehealth service. He was also a registered nurse and is also a qualified and experienced biomedical scientist in addition to being a doctoral candidate in biomedical engineering.