THE World Health Organisation (WHO) has cited childhood obesity among the most serious health challenges in the 21st century, prompting health-conscious parents to make more informed decisions on their children’s nutritional choices. The WHO states the fundamental cause for childhood obesity is an imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended through exercise, compounded by an energy-dense diet high in fat and sugar, but low in vitamins, minerals and other healthy micronutrients. Adding to the problem was a trend towards decreased physical activity from increasingly sedentary recreations, changing transport modes and increasing urbanisation.
The South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2012 published in the South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2013, stated the combined childhood overweight and obesity prevalence in the country was 13.5% for children aged six to 14 years. This was higher than the 10% global prevalence. “If action is not taken to halt this epidemic, the expected increase in overweight and obese South African children will become a major concern,” the report stated.
Another National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey has criticised the poor state of children’s school lunches, specifically the high intake of sugary cool drinks. About two in three school children purchase sugary drinks at least twice weekly, with each soft drink containing up to 55g of sugar.
The WHO guidelines recommend a maximum daily limit of 40g of sugar for children, less than the sugar content in just one serving of some sugary drinks.
It was into this environment that Joekels Tea Packers Director Jonathan Kelsey says South Africans should look closer to home when making their nutritional and dietary choices. “The choices kids make when buying from the school tuckshop are naturally influenced by the food and drinks they’re given at home”, Kelsey noted, adding that we often focus more on the sugar and calorie content of the food we consume rather than what we’re drinking. Locally-grown Rooibos is a sugar-free alternative drink that has the additional benefit of being naturally caffeine-free; containing antioxidants to boost the immune system; as well as helping to reduce allergies and inflammation; keep the body hydrated; soothe stomach cramps and colic in infants and help reduce stress levels.
A Spanish study determined that Rooibos both reduced the number and size of fat cells as well as prevented the development of fatty liver disease.
Joekels produces the Laager and Tea4Kidz Rooibos ranges as well as a host of black teas. Rooibos provides a good alternative to sugary drinks which, comparatively, are loaded with empty calories and provide limited essential nutrients while being linked to weight gain, poor health and tooth decay. According to Australian actor and director Damon Gameau, famous for his documentary That Sugar Film that followed a three-year global travel to research the impact of current sugar consumption levels, UK research has shown that five-year-old children are consuming their body weight in sugar annually. This translates into 22kg of sugar each year – three times the maximum recommended amount. That Sugar Film is the highest grossing Australian cinema documentary and has had major releases across a wide number of countries.
“Parents can creatively use Rooibos to produce healthier snacks and drinks for their children’s school lunch boxes or as treats at home, knowing they are investing in their long-term health and nutritional requirements,” Kelsey concludes.
Rooibos iced tea
Make up one litre of Rooibos using four to six tea bags; sweeten with honey to taste and leave in the fridge to cool overnight. Experiment with the basic iced tea by adding mint, lemon, orange, granadilla, mango or apple or a combination to find an iced tea variant suited to personal tastes.
Rooibos ice lollies
Pour Rooibos iced tea into popsicle containers or ice trays to freeze as a refreshing after-school treat.