If you were to ask my children what would make a perfect way of spending the weekend if left to themselves,it would be to sit in front of the TV for most of the day .
Do you know other children that are like mine ?
Being a parent,I get my greatest joy by telling them what is good for them in very few words and more action like switching off the TV and
asking them,ordering them outside to go and play.
It would be easier to let them watch TV all day but what fun would there be in that and what childhood memories am I creating when I am letting them spend the whole day in front of the TV.
I was thinking about the fights we have over the TV over the weekend when I read in the Saturday Nation that among the top 2 ailments that children over the age of 5 years in Nairobi have is malnutrition.
It took me aback because Nairobi being the capital city should be doing better than that,we seem to live in apparent affluence and food seems to be readily available for most residents of the capital city ,that should result in an above average nutrition status for most children but it does not.
What should we do to stem the rise in the incidences of malnutrition,be it over-nutrition or under nutrition ?
What can we do to stop the increasing number of children weighing in at more than they should?
I hope that this is the start of a conversation of how many more mothers and father can ensure that their children are having more of the right foods and less of the foods that come in cartons and tins.
1.Making healthy eating a lifestyle choice
Over some weekends I accompany the medics team at my church for medical missions around our neighborhood and as a nutritionist I spend time listening as well as talking to mothers about nutrition.
Apart from the normal complaint about how fast children get bored with certain foods,it is apparent that most mothers in the capital city no matter their economic status know what is good for their children.They know what their children should be eating and what their bodies need.
The challenge comes in turning the information that we have into life long lifestyle habits that our children can carry through out their lives .
No matter what stage children are in we can help them form healthier eating habits and we start at home with what we serve.
Start them on healthy eating habits while they are still very young.Let them know the joys of eating food made from fresh ingredients.
Start taking them grocery shopping as early as you possibly can.Let them know how to choose the freshest fruits and vegetables and let them have a feel and look at how fresh really looks like.
“To create really great food,you do not have to make complicated meals,the tastiest foods are the ones made from fresh ingredients.”
A secret to the question as to “how to know what is fresh ?” is that fresh is always what is on season and fresh is always cheaper.
Kenya is blessed with an abundance of food,vegetables ,fruits are in plenty and we have no reason not to ensure children are eating at least 2 servings of fruits and 3 servings of vegetables every day.
Fruits and vegetables are the source of micro nutrients which are essential for the proper functioning of a growing body’s functions.Children with the demands that growth puts on their bodies,we need to make sure they are meeting their dietary requirements.
For many parents who have a problem getting their children to eat fruits and vegetables,a few ideas to try in order to get them to eat more of these foods are .
- Making fruits are easily available at home,get a bowl which you ensure is always filled with some fruit of some kind.
- Let the children go shopping with you and let them choose the fruits and vegetables themselves.They are more likely to eat the fruits and vegetables they enjoy .
- Get creative in how you serve your fruits and vegetables.For vegetables apart from cooking them for short period of time under high heat,try grilling them,serving them in salads sliced or grated.
- Include fruits and vegetables as a part of every meal. Vegetables come in such colorful colors hat there would be no excuse not to have them on your plate,they add such lovely color to a meal.
- Add chopped or blended fruits to plain yoghurt .
- Eat fruits rather than blending them to make juice as fruits contain natural sugars and drinking large amounts of juice is likely to lead to a child being overweight because of all the sugar it contains.
2.Letting children play
Children need play as much as they need food.
Play helps children develop physical strength and it is also important as part of healthy brain development.Play is how children learn to interact with the world around them.
The American Academy of Pediatrics in a 2007 paper titled The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds by Kenneth R. Ginsburg had this to say :
Pediatricians should emphasize the advantages of active play and discourage parents from the overuse of passive entertainment (eg, television and computer games)
With access to internet connectivity we are seeing fewer children venturing out to play,they are spending more time on their mobile devices than outside with other children or even their parents.It is now becoming more common to see children especially those in urban centers who weigh more than they should for their age and height.
Kids need to be more physically engaged ,this will reduce the incidences of child obesity that are on the rise.Children with a healthy weight have been shown to be healthier,more socially competent as well as more able to concentrate in school.
3.A parent is the best role model
A parent is the best role model of what healthy living should be like.
Children are not very good at following instructions but they are great at being perfect imitators.
When we make healthier choices with what we put on our plates,what we stock in our kitchens our children carry these habits they have watched us practice with them when they grow up and in turn they will influence their own children.
We can change the future of generations to come just by the simple decision we make of what we eat.
Make sure it is the right one.
Was this article helpful,we would love to hear from you.Head over to the comments section with comments or questions about what we just talked about.