There has been a steady decline in healthy eating habits among children in South Africa. 14% of SA children between the ages of 4 and 8 are either overweight or obese. This is a staggering amount when you take into account that the worldwide prevalence for child obesity is 6.7%.
It is clear that parents should implement a healthy lifestyle for the whole family. Fruits and vegetables are a great source of multivitamins that child need to grow and to boost the body’s natural immune system.
Monique Piderit, a registered dietician, is urging parents to do the following to switch to healthier options to ensure happy and healthy children:
1. Eat more fruit and vegetables every day
Fewer fruits and vegetables were eaten in South Africa between 1995 and 2003. Without the nutrients that are found in fruits and vegetables, children are more susceptible to infections. This also means that viruses such as the common cold will take longer to heal. This will lead to more absent days, which can have a bad effect on your children’s academics, your performance at work, and the economy in general.
Marlinie Kotiah, Science manager at Danone Southern Africa says parents should include fruits and vegetables in every meal. “Add banana slices to cereal, an apple or carrot in the lunchbox, some cucumber, pumpkin or spinach with supper, or a few pieces of fruit after dinner are all great ways of including more fresh fruit and vegetables in a child’s daily diet.”
2 Have milk, maas or yoghurt every day
A child of 1 to 3 years requires 500mg of calcium, and a child between 4 and 8 requires 75% more calcium. However, with the decline of healthy eating, this means that children are not getting their recommended dietary intake of calcium. Calcium is required to help build and maintain strong bones and teeth. A deficiency can lead to bone density problems and osteoporosis later on in life.
Children who eat yoghurt are more likely to eat their fruits and veggies, wholegrains and have a lower calorie intake from fat and sugar.
Also read: Sneak calcium into your picky eater's diet
3. Eat breakfast every day
1 in 5 South African children skip breakfast. 19% say they cannot wake up early enough to have breakfast – however, there are lots of breakfast recipes that can be made the night before that include fruits, healthy grains and calcium. Try this overnight oats for a no-fuss, easy and healthy recipe.
Another 39% claim they are not hungry in the morning, but a small fruit or yoghurt cup can suffice until they are hungry during break time.
These claims, however, stem from the example that parents have set. 33% of children do not eat breakfast because their caregivers or family members do not eat breakfast in the morning.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is a great mood booster, helps with keeping children alert, and is substantial for memory, attention and problem-solving skills. These are the factors needed in your child’s daily life for school and for socialising.
Also read: 3 quick and healthy breakfasts
4. Drink more water every day
A child needs about 5 glasses of water a day. Parent can substitute sugary drinks with water. There are fun ways to get children to drink water, like putting berries, cucumber, lemon slices in the water. To make water even more enticing to your young one, make ice cubes with small fruit pieces or edible flowers. Fizzy drinks should be seen as a treat, and not a go-to beverage choice.
Water helps promote the circulation of blood and excretion by the kidneys and sweating. It's also gives a great mental boost during the day. Dehydration can lead to the malfunction of cells in the body and constipation.
Also read: Fizzy drinks, chubby girls
5. Move more every day
Encourage the children to get up from the couch for an hour when they get back from school. Move some furniture out of the way and start moving – follow some old-school aerobics DVDs or putting on a workout playlist and dancing. Exercise is beneficial to having healthy, attentive, fit and happy children.
Also see: 6 great channels to get your kids moving
There are many social media pages and apps for parents to join that will help with keeping track of encouraging and enforcing healthy habits. Groups such as Know Your Yoghurt (sign their pledge to make healthier choices for you and your family), Green Monday SA and The Heart and Stroke Foundation have amazing tips on how to maintain living healthy.
Also read: Get your children moving and shaking
What are you doing to make sure your family stays healthy? Have you turned the health of your family around? Share your stories and advice at firstname.lastname@example.org and we may publish your comments.
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