How Healthy Are Our Children? Ways To Help
Following on from an article in the Mountain Monthly entitled “How healthy are our Children’ last month, this month we explore the health challenges facing our children and ways to effect real positive change. Some of the statistics gleaned by the recent study from the Lower Hume Primary Care Partnership of children grade 2, 4 and 6 in our region, showed some concerning statistics.
* Only 2 out of 5 children are a healthy weight.
* less than 17% of our kids eat enough veggies! Wow that’s not good.
* Over 70% of kids do not get enough physical activity each week
These are some very troubling statistics.
There have been a number of studies that support this and indeed it is the feeling of many people in the general community that this generation of children have more health challenges than any generation before. There are a multitude of reasons for such perceptions, including the increased amount of processed food in our diets, levels of plastics and chemical additives and pesticides in our foods, a more fearful society that worries about letting their kids roam free ‘until the street lights come on’ thus reducing their physical activity and Independence, and increased amount of screen time our children have. This is by no means an exhaustive list, too many antibiotics, not enough dirt, too clean/not clean enough. it’s no wonder as a parent we care over-whelmed with so much information (as our our kids BTW), that it becomes hard to know how best to boost emotional and physical resilience on our amazing adaptable children.
Another worrying statistics that is directly related to all the above is the increase mental health issues of our youth. According to Beyond Blue almost 7% of children aged between 4 and 17 experience an anxiety disorder in 2015, that’s 278,000 young people in Australia alone, and Suicide is the biggest killer of our youth, (more than car accidents) or anything else.
There are many influencing these factors, however some things that all health professional all agree on and that good food and exercise and a low exposure to the internet and screens in general all help to create emotionally stronger, happier and more resilient children.
What we can do each day is ensure your kids eat a cup full of vegetables each day. Anyway you can of all of the colours of the rainbow. Make eating veggies enjoyable by grating them and adding to all meals, and not allowing a child to dictate their diet. One helpful way is to allow children to choose just one thing on their plate they do not have to eat. This gives them a little control but not enough to reduce their healthy vegetable intake. Include a variety of flavours and textures to increase their palate and remind them that it takes more than one try of anything before our bodies recognise them as good for us. And of course never allow sweet foods unless good food is eaten.
Encourage kids to suggest meal ideas and get them in the kitchen to help create their ideas and maybe even get involved in growing some herbs to connect with the food they eat. Also low fat milk has recently been debunked as studies showed that those who consumed it were more over weight than their full fat counterparts. Whole foods keep you satisfied longer so eat as little unprocessed food as possible and reduce sugar as much as you can. Sweet foods are a treat, not a daily consumption so that when you do, you will enjoy them better anyway!
Of course exercise is vital. We have a vast amount of sporting groups in our area, but also non structured play is so beneficial. Freedom to ride bikes and play outside, climb a tree, build a cubby house. These are wonderful ways that expand a child's problem solving and giving them more confidence in life situations.
Last of all get out there and have fun with your kids. They grow so quickly! Get dirty, rough and tumble and laugh. Music and laughter are all important tonics.
So until time, eat well, stay well and have fun
Dr Angela Palmer Traditional Chinese Medicine.