Growing Healthy Families
Date: 20 May 2015The health of our families and communities is hot on the agenda at the moment. In our latest webinar ‘Growing Healthy Families’, we uncovered all you need to know when it comes to family health, from nutrition, exercise and fussy eating to what makes a healthy child and their nutritional and exercise needs. If you missed our live webinar, you can catch-up and listen below, but we’ve also included a few highlights, handy hints and top tips below! So, why is good family nutrition important?
Our children have lots of needs, especially when it comes to nutrition and diet. Their needs vary too during particular stages of development, from infants and preschool children, to school age and adolescents.
InfantsInfants are totally dependent on other people and they have high needs. Infants also develop rapidly and require lots of nutrients in their diet:
PreschoolDid you know the brain of a preschool child is nearly adult sized?
Our preschool children need lots of new nutrients. They also require a movement from a milk-centred diet towards one of around 35% fat, 11% non-milk extrinsic sugars and plenty of starch. During preschool, it’s crucial to establish good food habits too, and growth spurts are often accompanied by a surge in appetite. Don’t forget your child’s appetite is the best guide to overall food needs.
School AgeSchool-age children become more exposed to outside influences. School can be physically and emotionally taxing too, which will impact food intake, and growth spurts require vitamins and minerals for bone, muscle and blood cell synthesis. Always ensure their water intake is adequate at school.
AdolescentsIn adolescents, dieting can be a problem. Our adolescents are also generally knowledgeable about healthy eating but that knowledge does not always translate into behaviour. As they approach the later stages, we may also find our adolescents experimenting with cigarettes and alcohol, which both impact nutritional status, in additional to certain beliefs such as vegetarianism.
Childhood ObesityOne thing is for certain though, our children are getting bigger and obesity is on the rise. Many adults view their overweight children to be a healthy weight too and weight is still a great concern, with overweight children more likely to become overweight adults.
The myth of “puppy fat”
In a child’s first year, the amount of fat in their body rises but soon falls again, with their body fat being at its lifetime lowest around the age of 6. A child’s body fat then rises again until puberty.
It is thought that the number of fat cells we have are largely set in childhood, so fat mass development must be controlled early on.
Mealtime BattlefieldMealtime battles are often common for many families, with some children picky eating, limiting food groups, refusing to eat, becoming fearful of new foods and often completing activities while eating. There are a few ways to counter bad eating habits however, and we’ve included a few ideas below:
Exercise for a Healthy ChildExercise should be a normal part of your everyday life and there are a few basic guidelines for maintaining health.
BabiesEncourage your baby to be as active as possible, including reaching, grasping, moving their body and engaging in supervised play.
Preschool ChildrenChildren who can walk on their own should be active for 3 hours each day, both inside and outside. This is lots of fun when incorporated with active play!
School Age and AdolescentsFor children at school and older, at least one hour of moderate to intense exercise is recommended. On 3 days each week, this exercise should include muscle and bone strengthening activities.
The Healthy Family EnvironmentGrowing a healthy family requires a healthy environment, and this includes creating an environment which is happy, healthy and free from any additional factors. This may include creating an environment which is free from smoke, child-proofed and safe from any toxic products (such as cleaning materials).
Allergies are also on the rise so try to remove any allergy triggers, which may be causing a reaction, and monitor children for new symptoms, even if they do not have an allergy. Always have a clean, hygienic and safe attitude to pets too.
Practice sleep hygiene as a family: associate the bedroom with sleep, ensure adequate access to natural light and exercise, and avoid stimulants in the evening. It’s also helpful to avoid napping in the day (unless you have young children) and large meals close to bedtime, which will create a relaxing bedtime routine.
Emotional and Mental Family HealthHealthy families have a healthy attitude towards mental health, and this can be achieved through:
Setting the ExampleThe best thing you can do is to set a good example to your children too, especially when it comes to being healthy. Some great ideas include:
Ensure your children meet the exercise guidelines for basic health. For more information, click here
Consider your environment: exposure to stress, both internal and external.
Take time to consider and address the mental health of your family.
Try not to worry! A balanced and positive attitude to health in you will be reflected in your children.