Eating habits are developed early in life. Some evidence suggests that food habits established before age five are maintained throughout adulthood. Children’s eating habits are influenced by their experiences at home, in childcare settings and at school. They are also heavily influenced by media messages.
A recent study of Nova Scotia children in grades 3, 7 and 11, found that up to 37% of boys and up to 45% of girls were either overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. A national study of children aged 7-13 found that obesity in boys and girls has grown from 5% in 1981 to 14% in boys and 12% in girls. Although little is currently known about the actual nutrition status of young children in this province, increasing rates of type 2 diabetes and obesity are indicators of unhealthy eating.
To address nutrition related issues, Healthy Eating Nova Scotia (HENS) was developed as a planning framework for strategic and comprehensive action on healthy eating. The identification of children and youth as one of the strategy’s four priority action areas has provided significant support for the importance of nutrition in the early years of child development.