This is particularly necessary in the 21st century, given the extent to which technology and lifestyle changes have altered how we all play, sleep, and relate.
The allure of digital devices and electric light has made us sleep poorly, and engage in less physical exercise. We have also neglected foods that make us healthy, and now binge on fast foods and unhealthy beverages.
Like us, our children are at risk of short and long-term health complications such as obesity, diabetes, cancers, heart diseases, stroke, and EMF-related effects.
As a result, they are becoming a lazy population struggling with cognitive stagnation and other developmental challenges.
How to achieve a healthy lifestyle for your child
The truth is, we cannot fight all the negatives that ship with technology and lifestyle changes in the 21st century. But we must adapt and coexist with them for a healthy tomorrow.
Nonetheless, we can help our kids grow and achieve a healthy lifestyle by implementing simple guidelines, described below.
1. 3 meals and 2 snacks a day
From childbirth until the 12th month, breast milk or baby formula are advised to ensure your child gets the correct balance of nutrients. This will keep her healthy to ward off illnesses and infections.
At six or seven months, when she starts to eat solid foods, her meals should also be nutrient rich, diverse, and fresh.
Your child’s daily diet should include,
- Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.
- Starchy and fiber-rich foods such as rice, potatoes and other whole-grain meals.
- Plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Protein and fiber-rich foods such as beef, fish, eggs, and non-dairy sources of protein in beans and nuts.
- Unsaturated fats are preferable to saturated fats.
… the breakdown of mealtimes
As a guideline, serve 3 whole meals and punctuate them with 2 snacks in the course of the day.
Breakfast should be served at 7.00, a snack at 10.00 am, lunch at 1.00 pm, a snack at 4.00 pm, and dinner at 7.00.pm or thereabouts.
Ensure your child starts with a nutrient rich breakfast to fuel the body for playtime and growth:
Kids who eat breakfast tend to eat healthier overall and are more likely to participate in physical activities — two great ways to help maintain a healthy weight.
Skipping breakfast can make kids feel tired, restless, or irritable. In the morning, their bodies need to refuel for the day ahead after going without food for 8 to 12 hours during sleep. Their mood and energy can drop by midmorning if they don’t eat at least a small morning meal.Breakfast Basics
Snacks may include bananas, yogurt, nuts, oatmeal, whole fruits, smoothie, boiled eggs, potato fries, etc.
Serve less food during dinner than you would for breakfast and lunch.
Eat a light, healthy, carb-included, small dinner every night and see how easily you fall asleep. You’ll wake up happy, fresh and full of life the next day,Pooja Makhija, a Nutritionist & Clinical Dietician
Finally, become a role model by eating and choosing a healthy lifestyle yourself.
2. 5 glasses of water every day
Water is important for the body and must be taken regularly in the course of the day.
It can be introduced into your child’s diet at about 6 months. Consumption of water before 6 months is not recommended because it can interfere with the absorption of milk in the stomach.
After six months, your child needs water to stay hydrated and facilitate the transportation of blood to different parts of the body.
Let her drink water whenever she wants. For the most part, 5 glasses a day should be good enough, but more is okay. Do not fret when she takes less, though you should endeavor to explain why water is useful for body growth.
Water makes up 60% of the body weight, and is important for the immune system, digestion, excretion, and regulation of body temperature.
Let her take even more water when she is out playing. Beware, though, that your child will take even less water when restricted to a sedentary lifestyle indoors.
Water should be preferred in place of carbonated drinks such as soda and fruit juice.
3. 2 to 3 servings of dairy products
Dairy products are important because they contain calcium and vitamin D, nutrients that are important for the structure of bones.
They are energy boosters and sources of proteins, potassium, vitamins A, and B12. Potassium helps regulate/balance body fluids, while vitamin B12 facilitates the formation of red blood cells and regulation of DNA. Vitamin A is needed for good vision, and is known to boost the immune system.
Cow milk should only be given to your child after 6 – 12 months, to facilitate breast milk and baby formula.
Other studies actually show that cow milk should only be given to babies 12 months and older. Remember to talk to your pediatrician before giving cow milk to your child younger than 12 months.
At 12 months, your child can be served full cream cow (fatty) milk, and transition to skimmed (non-fatty) milk at 2 years. If your child risks becoming obese, you can switch to skimmed milk even earlier.
Also true, continued use of whole cream milk after 2 years exposes your child to risks of becoming obese!
If you are a vegan family, or your child is lactose intolerant and allergic to milk, supplement her diet with soy, coconut, rice milk, oat, cheese, fish, eggs, bananas, leafy greens, and of course yogurt – yogurt is useful in generating the nutrients listed above.
How Much Milk Do Kids Need?
It depends on how old your child is, but the usual recommendations are:
1 to 2 years old: 2 cups of milk each day
3 years old and up: 3 cups of milk each dayverywell
4. Half plate of fruits and veggies!
Yes, half the food served on the table should be fruits and vegetables – where possible.
Fruits and veggies are rich sources of antioxidants and supercharge the human body with vitamins A, C, and minerals such as potassium.
They are low in calories and provide fiber to ensure a healthy digestive system. The two are great ways to counter the excesses in calories, which is prevalent in our diets today full of fats, sugars, and salt.
Fruits also provide a rainbow of colors to choose from. Here they are, with no particular order of importance – apricot, papaya, melon, orange, apple, grapes, berries, cherries, avocado, banana, mango. pineapple, kale, broccoli, etc.
Benefits of fruits and veggies:
- They boost the immune system, which is important in fighting illnesses.
- The fibrous content ensures the smooth operation of the stomach while preventing constipation.
- They help boost vision by reducing cataracts and macular degeneration.
- Meals rich in fruits and vegetables lower the risks associated with cardiovascular diseases by up to 30%.
- They help reduce obesity to ensure a lean weight and for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and overall physical wellbeing.
- They also help reduce the risks of some cancers and diabetes.
Unfortunately, many children are not keen on taking the recommended amount of veggies and fruits. They actually hate the rather ‘tasteless’ leafy greens and other veggies.
They prefer fruits that are sweet in taste and averse to the rest such as oranges and lemons.
To get your child to sample the fruit varieties on the table, become a role model by eating lots of veggies, serve varying veggie colors, ensure mealtimes are fun, and involve her in shopping and cooking.
Finally, eating a whole fruit is better than sucking on fruit juices and smoothies. If they must, your child should stick to taking juices and smoothies during mealtimes and indulge in whole fruits when snacking.
5. 60 minutes-plus of physical activity
Physical exercise is important for your child to stay healthy, fend off illnesses, and for cognitive wellness.
But physical wellness is in trouble today because of the influence of technology in your child’s life. Like many other kids, she probably fancies watching movies on TV set, and messing with computer screens.
Your child may also lack room for physical wellness at home due to cramped living spaces and rapid urbanization all around the globe.
To counter the sedentary lifestyle created by technology, the World Health Organization recommends children should accumulate 60 minutes of physical activity everyday.
More playtime is definitely better for children since it encourages them to excel in related requirements in childhood development.
Children eat, drink, and sleep better when they play more.
Extended physical activity is beneficial to your child in the following ways:
- It allows her to interact with nature.
- It enhances her executive functioning skills.
- When playing outdoors, she absorbs Vitamin D from the sun.
- Physical exercises stimulate her sensory skills.
- Exercises enhance her social skills with other kids.
- Her involvement with screens is reduced.
6. 8 hours-plus of quality sleep
Sleep plays a crucial role in childhood development. It makes your child grow in height and weight, permits cell repair, and commits information to the brain.
While this is true, sleep has been affected by the dawn of computer screens and the electric light, which have all affected the quality of sleep many children get.
Sleep is meant to happen at night – period.
Humanity in the 21st century has blurred the difference between night and day, by staying awake at night and sleeping during the day.
The electric light at night, which is always switched on at night, does not allow your child to get quality sleep.
Here is the problem: When the light is left on at night, your child’s body will find it hard to release the melatonin hormone, which is vital in regulating the sleep-wake cycle. The same is true if your child spends hours into the night using her smartphone or tablet.
Melatonin is only released when all lights are switched off in the bedroom!
Sufficient sleep in the night, in the upwards of 8 hours, facilitates the following in your child:
- She will experience growth spurts during deep sleep.
- The information she has learned during the day is committed into memory
- Her broken body cells will be repaired during sleep.
- Her brain will undergo detoxification to enable the necessary cognitive development.
According to a lead author at URMC,
… the brain has different functional states when asleep and when awake. In fact, the restorative nature of sleep appears to be the result of the active clearance of the by-products of neural activity that accumulate during wakefulness.
Sleep also washes away the build-up of toxins in the brain, known to increase the likelihood of any of us developing Alzheimer’s disease.
It does not hurt to let your child sleep at night for as long as her head can stay down for growth and a healthy lifestyle.
7. A clampdown on screen time and technology!
Do not allow your child to bury her head in mobile phones, computer screens, computer games, and the TV set – all the time. Let her know the importance of attending to other chores at home and outdoors.
Make her aware of the dangers that go with overindulgence in technology, such as
- exposure to EMF
- poor eating habits
- missed opportunity to interact with life outdoors and with friends
- interferes with sleep at night
When your child uses technology responsibly, she will develop a healthy lifestyle necessary for school, work and life.
She will also improve her skills in relating with real people and society. Her eating habits will improve, and she will get quality sleep at night.