Children are the future! So it is very important to ensure they have all the best opportunities to grow and develop into strong, healthy and happy individuals. Unlike most adults, children cannot choose what to eat, what to do or where to live.
They also usually have a limited ability to understand the long-term consequences of their behaviour health-wise. Therefore it is very important that we as adults help them with a solid and healthy basis for their future. And luckily we can do that in many ways.
Sweet child of mine
More than 50% of children get too much sugar in their diet. The biggest part of the sugar comes from sweets, cakes and ice cream, but fizzy drinks and juice are also big contributors. It is recommended that the intake of sugar by children (and adults) is below 10% of their total daily energy intake. For smaller children, that is approx. 25–30 grams of sugar per day, and for school children it is approx. 45–55 grams per day, maximum. In comparison, most fizzy drinks contain more than 30 grams of sugar.
Too much sugar is bad because it will give you a lot of calories and it takes up space from essential nutrients like vitamins, protein and minerals leading to overweight and malnutrition. Also, sugar feed the harmful bacteria in your mouth, which can lead to tooth decay. Eating too much sugar can also cause insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes, overweight, obesity, metabolic problems, fatty liver and cardiovascular disease.
Help your children cut down on their sugar intake by offering them water or milk instead of fizzy drinks or juice. Give them fresh fruit instead of sweets. Make your own ice cream instead of buying ice cream. Or try natural yoghurt instead of fruit yoghurt.
Avoid childhood obesity
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that in 2016 there were over 41 million obese children under the age of five, and the number is increasing at an alarming rate. If your child is obese the risk of premature death, disability, breathing difficulties, fractures, hypertension, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease and psychological effects like stress, sadness and low self-esteem intensifies.
There are, of course, a lot of different reasons why children become overweight and obese. But unhealthy eating patterns and lack of physical activity are two of the most important factors.
5 ways to healthier family habits:
1) Remember that your children do what you do and not what you tell them do to… So be a good example!
2) Include physical activities in daily family routines. Plan family activities that include walking, biking, playing soccer or going swimming. Children should be physically active for at least 60 minutes each day.
3) Remember to listen to your child’s needs. Some overweight children find it very difficult and uncomfortable to participate in physical activity. So find something that they like to do. Make it a fun activity for everyone.
4) Set rules for sedentary activities like watching TV, playing video games and using iPads.
5) Endorse healthy eating habits. Make sure your child gets a solid breakfast every morning, a healthy lunch and dinner. All meals should include good proteins from fish, poultry or lean meat, healthy fat from nuts, oils, cheese, avocado etc., and lots of fibre and carbohydrate from fruits and vegetables and whole grains in bread, rice, pasta and so on.
Remember the fibre
Many children sometimes complain of tummy ache or have trouble going to the loo. Dig a little deeper into what might be going on before assuming it’s an allergy or intolerance. Many children can experience constipation – and dehydration can be one of the most common reasons, as can a lack of fibre.
Fibre needs plenty of water to help it bulk out the stool and stimulate the gut to move it through, so make sure you boost fibre and water in the diet, or you can make constipation worse. Choose whole grains, oats, quinoa, plenty of fruits and vegetables, lentils and beans.
Calcium is important for your child
Calcium is important for the development and maintenance of bones and teeth, nerve function, muscle contractions and heart function. Getting enough calcium (as well as nutrients like vitamin D) and exercise during childhood and adolescence is important for increasing bone mass to prevent osteoporosis in later life.
Dairy products like milk, cheese and yoghurt are good sources of calcium in a Western diet. Dairy products also provide valuable protein and vitamins A, B1, B2 and B3.
Opt for the low fat versions.
Other sources of calcium are, for example, green vegetables, nuts, sardines and wholegrain products.
Sweet dreams my love
Your child need sigificantly more sleep than you do to support the rapid mental and physical development. But how many hours are required?
All children are slightly different in terms of how much sleep they need. Below are some general recommendations:
• Toddlers (1–2 years): 11–14 hours
• Preschoolers (3–5 years): 10–13 hours
• School children (6–13 years): 9–11 hours
• Teenagers (14–17 years): 8–10 hours
• Young adults (18–25 years): 7–9 hours
Did you know
That childhood development depends on the interaction between genes and environmental variables? For example, a child may have the genes to grow tall, but if it doesn’t have the proper nutrition, it may never achieve full height.
That researchers note that a baby’s brain is like a lantern: it is vaguely aware of everything? An adult’s brain, on the other hand, is more like a flashlight, consciously focused on specific things but ignoring the background.
That from ages three to eight, children’s brain tissue uses twice as much energy as adult brain tissue? A five-year-old child weighing 44 pounds requires 860 calories a day. Half of that energy goes to the brain.
That globally, 81% of adolescents aged 11–17 years were insufficiently physically active in 2010? Adolescent girls were less active than adolescent boys, with 84% versus 78% not meeting WHO recommendations.