The Healthiest Country in the World

healthiest country in the world | www.healthymealstoyourdoor.com.auAn article written by The Italian Tribune displayed some recent data from Bloomberg Rankings, showing the top healthiest countries and the least healthiest countries in the world. Each country is given a health score and a health risk score.

Singapore was named the number one healthiest country in the world (yes we were surprised too). Coming in at a close second was Italy, followed by Australia, Switzerland, Japan, Israel and Spain. While Swaziland, Lesotho, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and Mozambique were rated the top 5 least healthiest countries in the world, respectively.

We were interested to know how these rankings were assigned. The health score given to each country was based on mortality rates, smoking rates, immunization rates, the number of people with access to healthcare, healthcare efficiency and satisfaction and life expectancy. These are all very important factors, but it would interesting to see the worlds healthiest countries ranked in terms of just diet and lifestyle, instead of quality of healthcare. Would Australia still come in third place? Probably not. Japan might slide up a few spots though, given that it has one of the lowest rates of obesity (3.3%) compared to Australia (20%) and the U.S (35%).

It’s important to note that good quality healthcare is not the number one predictor of health. Many countries with excellent health care (like Australia and the US) are actually staggering under huge numbers of unhealthy individuals. We are overweight, obese; we have diabetes, cancer, mental illnesses.

There are many reasons why a country might have a fantastic health care system, one being that they are most likely a developed country.  Usually you see an increase in health in a population as healthcare infrastructure increases.  Unfortunately this doesn’t always correlate.  Australia has an amazing public health care system, as does Canada, and the UK comparative to many other countries.

Sadly despite the comparatively good health care systems in the States, the UK, and Australia, this infrastructure often is bulging under the pressure to treat the millions of people everyday who are burdened with chronic diseases.  Ironically many in first are a product of the first world and modernisation or “westernisation”, and arguably could be prevented with lifestyle changes or a return to more traditional ways (specifically eating less processed foods, cooking meals, and eating as a family, being part of a community, less stressful lives).

In underdeveloped countries the illness and disease profiles look quite different, and it is surprising that with improvements and infrastructure that more developed countries aren’t performing better than this in their countries “health scores”.

So the question is whether we should be looking at the quality of treatment that a country gives to its citizens as a marker of the health of the country or the effectiveness in preventive health care and health promotion infrastructure available to the general public of said country (e.g. diet, exercise and lifestyle factors, social support mechanisms and other support services and infrastructure and policy) to enable its citizen’s to better take care of themselves and each other.  What do you think?

meditterranean diet | www.healthymealstoyourdoor.com.auWe did love some of the notes on how the Italians do life, and we do love and promote the benefits of enjoying a Mediterranean diet… viva Italy!  In our minds, it’s not just the great health care infrastructure that lifts their health markers… it’s the lifestyle factors, that are so often underestimated like: culture, social support, community and of course great eating practices that also play a key role.

Read the article by The Italian Tribune here: http://www.italiantribune.com/italy-second-healthiest-country-in-the-world/

 

Feeding Children – The balance of responsibility

feedingchildrenI often am approached by parents wanting information on best feeding practices for their children.  Sometimes parents complain they battle with “fussy eaters”, sometimes it is that their “toddler is too busy to eat”, sometimes it is that their children are constantly nagging for junk food, or “won’t eat anything healthy”.

On the one hand I encourage parents to keep the peace in the home and resist the urge to try to control their children, especially with regards to eating.  Food wars, almost always will cause problem eaters down the track.  At the same time, parents are the nutritional gatekeepers, and so I do encourage them to take advantage of their ability to influence their children’s eating habits.  They can do this in several ways:

  1. They can make sure there is delicious healthy food available.
  2. They can be a good role model, choose, prepare and eat healthy food in satisfying ways.
  3. They can watch their dialogue around food, eating, and body image.
  4. They can invite their children to take part in meal decisions or meal preparation.
  5. They can crowd out or minimize the availability of junk food in the house.
  6. They can set norms, boundaries and expectations around eating in the home.
  7. They can create an environment for best eating practice.

At every stage of childhood, parents have responsibilities with feeding while children have responsibilities with eating.  As the child gets older, their responsibilities increase. So be aware that you will have different degrees of influence and responsibility at different ages.  That is why being a role model, and a facilitator and leader is a better strategy than trying to control everything, or nothing.

Here’s what I mean:  In the case of the infant: the parent is responsible for what the infant eats and how they eat it.  A baby has no ability to control that, they can cry, they can refuse to eat, but the parent will decide whether the baby is offered breast or bottle, if bottle, which formula, the parent will decide when to wean, and the parent will decide what to wean with.  (Once the preferred infant food is decided by the parent, the infant is only in charge of how much they consume.

As a child starts eating more solid foods they become accountable for not only how much they eat but also whether they eat.  Usually the older they get, the more they assert their will and their preferences, but they still can’t really “help themselves” or control “what their choices are”.  Children choose how much they eat and whether they eat.

If parents successfully take on responsibility for their part of the feeding (e.g. choosing food, preparing food, being good role models around food and mealtime), children will learn how to eat, how to determine satiety and how to eat a variety of different foods, all of which lead to competent eating (1). But in order to achieve this, parents must give their child some responsibility of their own. This is crucial in teaching children good eating habits.

Here is one example highlighting why it is important they are given some of the responsibility.  I have watched many well intentioned parents insist their children don’t leave the table until they finish everything on their plate (my mother included).  While the parent has the best interests of the child at heart (or perhaps they don’t like to waste food), unfortunately this rule overrides the child’s natural abilities to judge “satiety” and learn when they have had enough and practice the act of “stopping eating”.

Under three, children will stop eating based on their own internal cues rather than being influenced by serving size or how much food is on their plate; after five however, a child will typically be much more influenced by serving size, and eat more or less dependent on external rather than internal cues.  So I would encourage you to give your child the opportunity to practice this skill, if they have had enough, let them stop.

In the same breath, I am a mum, and I “get” that children might “play up”, get distracted, have preferences and so it is necessary to consider some practical guidelines around eating, and certainly important to manage expectations and boundaries.

Here are some ideas:

Encourage them to sit down and eat their food at the table (not on the run or in front of the TV), research shows this facilitates mindful eating, and furthermore research shows lower incidence in teenage depression of families who share at least one meal a day at the dinner table.

You might set an expectation that they eat vegetables every day, but you encourage them to choose any two types of vegetables from the options available for their plate each night (they can choose from what is available e.g. “Which two would you like, you can have pumpkin, raw carrot sticks, cucumber, avocado, broccoli or peas?)  By doing this you work within their preferences but you set the expectation and habit of including vegetables and healthy food as part of the meal.

You might make an effort to both include new things for them to try, and include old familiar favorites they like.

Remember parents are the nutritional gate keepers, you do most of the food shopping and preparation, therefore you need to make sure there are delicious and nutritious options available for them to choose from.  (If you need some support with healthy meal preparation and catering remember Healthy Meals To Your Door does healthy family dinners!)

As we know, educating children on good eating behaviours and allowing them to develop their own positive attitudes toward food is greatly beneficial for when the child steps into adulthood. Their habits and values will carry with them throughout their life.

For more information or support in understanding or healing your relationship with food visit www.sizefantastic.com.au

  1. http://ellynsatterinstitute.org/dor/divisionofresponsibilityinfeeding.php