Adopting healthy habits for kids benefits children, as well as parents. Naazneen Khan, Health and Wellness Manager at Nestlé South Africa, shares a few healthy ideas that will put your family on track to leading a happier and healthier lifestyle.
Naazneen says that forming healthy habits in children from an early age is vital, not only for their health as kids, but for the rest of their lives.
1. Great snack tips
- Get into the habit of eating fruit. Fruit provides vital nutrients such as potassium, fibre, vitamin C and folic acid, which helps produce and maintain new cells and is great for child growth and development.
- On average, children between nine and thirteen need about 28g of fibre a day to assist digestion, regulate bowel movements and maintain balanced blood sugar levels.
- Berries and apples are fantastic snack options as they contain high levels of fibre. One cup of blueberries or one large apple provides about 4 to 6g of fibre.
- As an extra bonus, most fruits are naturally low in fat, sodium and have no cholesterol.
2. Five ways to help increase your child’s five a day
- Add variety — buy fruit that’s dried, frozen and canned (in water or 100% juice) as well as fresh fruit, so you always have a supply on hand.
- Keep visible reminders — keep a bowl of whole fruit on the table or in the fridge, so it’s easy for children to reach them.
- Don’t forget the fibre — offer whole or cut up fruit, rather than fruit juice, to get the benefit of dietary fibre provided by fruit. Fruit juice, even if it’s 100% fruit juice, can add unnecessary kilojoules and often lacks the fibre your children need.
- Include fruit at breakfast — top up your cereal with bananas, peaches or strawberries; add grated apple to pancakes or try fruit mixed with fat-free or low-fat yoghurt.
- Experiment with fruit at dinner — add crushed pineapple to coleslaw, or include orange sections. Serve fresh fruit salad as dessert.
3. How to grow your child’s interest in fruits and vegetables
- One of the best ways to get kids enthusiastic about eating fruit and vegetables is to teach them how to grow and harvest them. Let your children choose what they would like to grow and then spend the weekend buying seeds or seedlings, the necessary equipment and finding the perfect pot or container to plant them in.
- Remember that plants may require different seasons to grow optimally, so do a bit of research before you get digging. April, for example, is a great month to plant carrots and warmer summer months are more favourable to strawberries and tomatoes.
4. Step-by-step guide to growing juicy carrots
- Step 1: Buy a pot that is at least 40cm deep and has good drainage, enough multipurpose compost to fill the pot and a packet of carrot seeds from your local gardening store.
- Step 2: Fill the pot with the compost, water well and allow the water to drain so the soil is damp and not wet.
- Step 3: Scatter the seeds thinly over the surface and cover with a fine layer of compost.
- Step 4: Place the pot in full sun and keep the compost moist to avoid the seeds drying out.
- Step 5: Germination takes between 14 to 21 days. Once seedlings appear, gently pull out the weaker plants, leaving a few centimetres of space between each carrot.
- Step 6: After about 12 weeks you’ll be able to harvest your carrots. Gently pull them out of the ground with a utensil to try and loosen the soil around it. Enjoy!
5. Get active
It’s easy to get into the habit of lying on the couch and staring at a television for hours. It’s to the whole family’s benefit to make an effort to be active.
- Regular exercise decreases the risk of developing type two diabetes, helps lower blood pressure and helps strengthen muscles and bones.
- Children who are physically fit sleep better and are more equipped to handle physical and emotional challenges.
- Gather the kids around and put together a list of activities that appeal to them. Once all activities are in, draw up a calendar and plot them in over a three-week period and stick the sheet on the fridge for everyone to see. This will give your children something to look forward to and it’s a great way to get to spend quality time together and experience something different over the holiday period.