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Last Updated: September 24, 2020

The extensive use of technology equipment today dictates we adjust our lives to suit the digital ecosystem instead of maintaining a healthy lifestyle known to us for generations. We no longer sleep sufficiently, because of the allure of the electronic light, and we have become physically inactive yet continue to eat a lot of junk. We also misuse our mobile devices as if our lives depend on them, all in the guise of wanting to sound relevant in the 21st Century.

As if our sins are not enough, we have happily passed on our habits to the innocent generations of children born in this Century. They too have embraced the lifestyle, and like us, are at risk of short and long term health complications such as obesity, diabetes, cancers, heart, stroke, and EMF related illnesses. Ultimately, they are becoming a lazy population and also struggling with cognitive stagnation.


Maintaining a healthy lifestyle for younger generations

Veggies are great for immunity. Photo by Chan Walrus from Pexels

The truth is, we cannot fight all the negatives that ship with technology, but we can try to ensure our kids grow into healthy humans, by implementing simple yet healthy living guidelines illustrated below.

1. 3 meals and 2 snacks a day

In early childhood, specifically 0-12 months, breastfeeding or baby formula are advised to provide the correct balance of nutrients to help them grow and stay clear of illnesses. Starting from 1 year to adulthood, meals should be diverse and relevant., and most important organic rather than processed.

After 12 months, the right mix of meals must become a priority. As children age their daily diet should include,

  • Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt. Additionally, ice cream should not be served regularly because they contain higher quantities of saturated sugars.
  • 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

Since breakfast is evidently the most important meal of the day, it should be rich in nutrients, containing starch and protein derived from the foods mentioned above. Good breakfast provides the refueling the body’s needs and facilitates a full stomach in the course of the day.

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

In the course of the day, children can balance between whole meals, and snacks to ensure they eat well and stay interested. Snacks may include, bananas, yogurt, nuts, oatmeal, whole fruits, smoothie, boiled eggs, potato fries, etc.

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. Serve less 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

Last but not least, do not force your child to eat when he or she is not interested, and be ready to serve more or less, depending. Your child may want to eat or snack more if he is going throwing the growth spurts, or is physically active, throughout the day.   

Finally, become a role model by eating and staying healthy yourself.

2. 5 glasses of water every day

Water makes up more than half the body weight, (60%) and is, therefore, a must-have fluid for children. It is very important in the blood because it helps carry oxygen to the body cells. It is also important for the immune system, digestion, excretion, and regulation of body temperature.

Water can be introduced into your child’s diet at about 6 months. Consumption of water before 6 months is unsafe because it can interfere with the absorption of milk, and make the tummy feel full.

After 6 -12 months children need water to stay hydrated and to keep maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Let them drink water whenever they want, especially when physically active. For the most part, 5 glasses a day should be the target, but more is good if they want. Do not fret when they take less, but motivate them to take more.

Beware, though, that children 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 normal vision and a boost to 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 indicate cow milk should only be given to babies 12 months and older. Remember to talk to your pediatrician before giving cow milk to a child younger than 12 months.

At 12 months children should be served full cream cow (fatty) milk, and then change to skimmed (non-fatty) milk at 2 years. Children who are at risk of becoming obese can switch to skimmed milk even earlier than 2 years.

Continued use of whole cream milk after 2 years exposes children to risks of obesity and related complications!

Vegan families or children who are lactose intolerant and allergic to milk can supplement their diet with soy, coconut, rice milk, oat, cheese, fish, eggs, bananas, leafy greens, and of course yogurt many kids like yogurt – to generate the relevant nutrients listed above.

How Much Milk Do Kids Need?

It depends on how old they are, 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 day

verywell

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 a diet full of fats, sugars, and salt.

Fruits 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 fruits and veggies. They prefer fruits that are sweet in taste and averse to non-sweet fruits such as oranges and lemons. They actually hate the rather ‘tasteless’ leafy greens and other veggies.

To get children to sample the fruit varieties on the table, become a role model, use physical activity as bait, make mealtimes fun, spice up your veggies and involve them in shopping and cooking.

Finally, eating a whole fruit is better than sucking on fruit juices and smoothies. If they must, children should stick to taking juices and smoothies during mealtimes and indulge in whole fruits during snack time.

5. 60 minutes-plus of physical activity

Physical activity is extremely important for young children to ensure they stay healthy, fend off illnesses, and become cognitively alert. Overall it is great for maintaining a healthy lifestyle especially now that technology is forcing them to stay sedentary most of the day.

The challenges that come with urbanization also demand that children are kept at home for safety, while playgrounds are becoming smaller because of the increasing population.

To counter the sedentary lifestyle created by technology, the World Health Organization recommends,

Children should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily.’(MVPA)

WHO

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. In rural settings around the world, children spend most of their time outdoors, while their counterparts in urban settings are indoors for the most part of the day.

Extended physical activity is beneficial in the following ways:

  • It allows them to interact with nature.
  • It enhances their executive functioning skills.
  • They get to absorb Vitamin D from the sun.
  • It stimulates the sensory skills.
  • Physical activity enhances their social skills when they interact with other kids outdoors.
  • Their involvement with screens such as computers, TV, and game consoles is cut down considerably.

6. 8 hours-plus of quality sleep

Sleep plays a very crucial role in childhood development. It is, however, one aspect of the milestones affected the most because of technology, urbanization, and global culture. While sleep is very important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, it has become a victim of the electric light and the overall breakdown of the 24-hour human body clock.

Sleep is meant to happen at night – period.

Humanity has however blurred the difference between night and day, by staying awake at night and sleeping during the day. The electric light at night allows us to go for hours without sleep, either because of work overload or entertainment, and we doze off during the day instead of working.

Here is the problem: Sufficient sleep in the night, in the upwards of 8 hours allows the following to happen to children:

  • They experience growth spurts for the body to grow in height and weight
  • Their body cells are repaired during this time
  • The brain undergoes detoxification to enable the necessary cognitive rebirth and memory excellence

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 cause Alzheimer’s disease.

When children are made to appreciate the value of sleep, they are equally prepared to accept the same when they grow up. It does not hurt to let them sleep at night for as long as their heads can stay down.

7. a clampdown on screen time and technology!

Much as we live in a world saturated with digital devices, it is no excuse to let children bury their heads in mobile phones, computer screens, computer games and the TV set, all the time. Children should be made aware of the dangers that go with overindulgence in technology:

When children learn to use technology responsibly, they get into the habit of maintaining a healthy lifestyle even without supervision, when they grow up. They also get to appreciate the people around them socially, eat better, sleep better, and learn to use technology as a tool. Even better, they could use some of the tech-hours to read wide!