Mild illnesses, such as coughs and colds are part and parcel of growing up, but there are some steps you can take to help prevent your children from getting ill; some suggestions and tips are outlined below:
Diet is extremely important for keeping the body healthy and adopting good eating habits in childhood can increase the likelihood of enjoying good health in adolescence and adulthood.
A healthy, balanced diet
A healthy diet should include a range of different foods to ensure the body takes in a variety of different minerals, vitamins and nutrients; this will help to keep the body functioning as effectively as possible and help to boost the immune system and protect against illness. Children should be encouraged to eat a wide range of foods from an early age; this will make them less fussy in the future and will also allow them to learn about healthy foods. Try to encourage your children to eat lots of different fruits and vegetables and make as much food from fresh ingredients as possible; processed foods are often high in salt, sugar and fat and have little nutritional value.
A healthy diet should include plenty of complex carbohydrates, such as pasta, rice and cereals, as well as lots of fruit and vegetables; protein is also important because it aids growth and helps to build muscle and repair cells. Fats are also an important part of a healthy diet but should be controlled carefully; try to avoid including foods that are high in saturated fats and cholesterol and use unsaturated fats instead. Salt must also be controlled in children’s diets; younger children should consume no more than 3 grams of salt per day while teenagers should not consume more than 5 grams each day.
Encouraging your children to eat healthily
Your children will copy your eating habits so try to make sure you set a good example by preparing fresh foods and eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables (you should aim for 5 portions each day). Try to involve them with preparing and cooking food from an early age and encourage them to talk about and learn about healthy eating and how food affects their body. Eating healthily does not mean cutting out all children’s favourite foods such as biscuits, cakes and sweets; use these as treats to reward good behaviour.
How much should my child be eating?
Children need different amounts of calories depending on their age and activity levels; generally, children should eat much smaller portions than adults.
Experts recommend the following calorie intakes:
- 1-3 years: 1160
- 4-6 years: 1550
- 7-10 years: 1750
- 11-14 years: 1850
- 15-18 years: 2100
- 1-3 years: 1230
- 4-6 years: 1700
- 7-10 years: 1970
- 11-14 years: 2200
- 15-18 years: 2700
Making healthy choices
Amidst the increase in child obesity, the Government are encouraging parents to adopt a healthier lifestyle and encourage their children to make healthy food choices. Nowadays, schools are obliged to offer healthy options at lunchtime and parents are urged to make the same changes in terms of the food they provide for their children to eat during and after school. Snacks should include fruits, vegetables and low fat yoghurt, rather than cakes or crisps; try to make fresh sandwiches or wraps, rather than shop-bought ones, as these are usually much higher in fat and salt. You should also try to use wholegrain foods, as these will keep your child feeling fuller for longer, as well as being good for their heart. You can make your child’s lunchbox a bit more exciting by including pasta or rice salads, fruit smoothies and healthy pizzas.
Exercise should be encouraged from an early age; exercise can be great fun for kids as they love getting outdoors and playing with their friends. Try to make exercise as much fun as possible and get the whole family involved. Encourage your child to join a local sports team or take up a hobby such as dancing, swimming or gymnastics. Exercise will help them to release energy in a positive way, build their self-esteem, allow them to make new friends and teach them a whole host of positive character traits including learning how to lose graciously, working as part of a team and obeying a set of rules. Exercise will also benefit their health, keep their body weight stable, improve sleep patterns and encourage effective growth and development.
How much exercise should my child be doing?
Children should exercise on a daily basis; this does not need to be rigorous exercise, it can include a bike ride or walk to school or the shops or a kick about with a football in the garden. Exercise can include a whole range of activities; if your child isn’t showing promise in a team sport, try and encourage them to try other sports as they may find they have a talent and this will foster ambition and increase confidence.
The environment your child grows up in can have serious implications for their health. You should try to keep your home clean and dry and avoid smoking indoors; this will reduce the risk of your child developing a respiratory illness, such as asthma. Keep your home warm and try to wash your child’s clothes, towels and bed sheets regularly; this will reduce the number of dust mites.