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Nutrition and fitness tips to stimulate your child’s development

Children who are taught healthy eating habits and partake in physical activity enjoy good health and development. But children can be moody, with toddlers throwing vegetables on the floor or getting glued to the TV. However frustrating it may be, parents must find ways to persuade children that vegetables are healthy for them, and too much TV is harmful. They must also encourage them to exercise.

A few things parents should do to keep their children fit are as follows:

Like adults, kids also need physical activity to stay healthy. A report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows only 50 per cent boys, and less than 34 per cent girls aged 12 to 15 are as fit as they should be. Unfit kids are at risk of cardiovascular and chronic diseases, as well as psychological disorders.

Technological developments are contributing to sedentary lifestyles that are changing children. Luckily, parents can intervene to make a difference. By encouraging children to exercise every day and eat nutritious food, they can help them follow balanced diets and enjoy good health. Ample physical activity and a healthy diet in early childhood produce superior cognitive outcomes in young children. Regular physical activity leads to growth and development and has multiple benefits to physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being which makes children better at learning.

Why is regular exercise the key?

In today’s “couch-potato” era, when children and adults spend time from dusk till dawn in front of mobiles and computers, exercise is more important than ever. Here, functional training is an effective form of exercise for children because it helps build body strength and quickly creates awareness of the advantages of exercise.

 Exercise for children is different than those of adults. Adults work out in gyms or fitness clubs while children’s exercises are an organic part of daily life. They play during recess, after school and take part in all sorts of physical activities, from sports to dance and more. Ideally, kids should perform six to eight exercises that work for all major muscle groups at least twice a week. Doing so leads to better memory, a robust immune system, more considerable energy, and overall healthier well-being.

Let your child relish simple nutrients

Simple nutrition improves overall development – physical and cognitive – which is a proven fact. Simple nutrients are fruits and vegetables. They contain essential nutrients vital for health, growth, and development. But getting kids to eat green vegetables is a struggle for many parents. To do so, they should try stuffed vegetables with extravagant stuffing and can be served in creative ways, like in a muffin tin or a cute cup. Parents can also spread hummus on wholewheat pita pockets and slice raw vegetables such as carrots and cucumbers. Serving fruit smoothies is also an excellent way to pack nutrients in a small snack.

 

Kids should be taught about the benefits of eating different varieties of vegetables and fruits and their respective benefits. Also, they should be explained the importance of nutrition and how children can make healthy choices.

What part should a parent play?

Parents should control the fridge: They decide what foods to buy and when to serve them. Although kids will nag parents for unhealthy junk food, adults must be firm in determining what foods are stocked in their home. Kids won’t go hungry; they will eat healthy food found in the pantry and fridge at home. Parents must avoid stocking junk food and instead equip their house with healthier options. They should not allow their children to consume excesses quantities of sugary drinks, chocolates, cookies, etc.

Monitor kids’ menu: It’s a myth that kids only crave hot dogs, pizzas, burgers, and macaroni and cheese. When they are taught the importance of nutrition and healthy food, they often surprise their parents by their willingness to experiment with and eat the same.

Sneak-peak at snack time: Many packaged snacks for kids are incredibly unhealthy. They are filled with refined flour, added sugars and artificial ingredients which should be strictly avoided. Instead, parents should give their children a preview of delicious and healthy home-cooked snacks. Processed snack foods should be replaced with whole foods that provide energy. Such foods are yogurt, celery with peanut butter and raisins, oatmeal, and nuts, etc. Once children develop a fondness for these healthy foods, their desire for unhealthy processed foods with abate.

Health drinks are not healthy: Most of the drinks which are promoted as kids’ health drink are extremely unhealthy and loaded with sugar. There is very little nutritional value and a high amount of sugar increases health risk. Parents should be wise enough to check the nutrition label even if it’s from a reputed brand.

Special care for girl child: Girl child has specific nutrition requirements; their body goes through a lot of changes while growing up. They lose a lot of blood during menstruation and improper focus has led to a few major health concerns and one of them is anemia. According to a WHO report, 58.6 per cent of female children suffer from anaemia. Dark green leafy vegetables should be included in their diet on a daily basis.

Perhaps nothing makes children more concerned about health than seeing their parents adhere to healthy eating habits and performing exercise regularly. Parents who become role models of good health to their children raise kids who value exercise and nutrition. When kids see their parents being physically active and having fun doing so, they will also want to remain active throughout their lives. Similarly, when teaching kids, the value of eating right, there is no better way than by setting the right example by eating wholesome and nutritious food.

This article has been written by Rishikesh Kumar and first appeared in ‘The Indian Express’.

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