Posted On Dec 12, 2022
6 Min Read
Consultant Paediatric Intensivist
Manipal Hospitals - Yeshwanthpur - Bengaluru
6 min read
Children nowadays are overfed but undernourished. From how they play to how they eat, as well as how they connect with themselves and their surroundings, many aspects of a child's life have drastically changed in recent times. The COVID-19 pandemic has finally forced the kids back into their regular school lives after a complete home lockdown situation. However, many children are still finding it difficult to adjust to this change in routine. Increases in obesity, frequent snacking, and sedentary behaviour are the major aspects that have been observed after this pandemic. As how a youngster eats, plays, and connects with others are the three key areas of their lifestyle, it is our responsibility to discover how to develop a healthy lifestyle in our kids that will ultimately improve their immunity and general well-being.
Early childhood lifestyle is vital because it affects a child's mental and physical health, cognitive capacity, language ability, and social skills. This lifestyle includes their eating habits and physical activity, as well as sleep and overall environmental exposure. One of the most crucial elements associated with children's growth and intellectual development is appropriate nutrition. Early and exclusive breastfeeding for 6 completed months and continued with complementary feeds till 2 years provides babies with essential nourishment and offers them immunity against illness. Further adequate and appropriate nutrition starting from the sensitive age of 6 months onwards till later in life will set the building blocks for healthy food choices in the future. Nutritional deficiencies, such as severe acute malnutrition, chronic undernutrition, iron deficiency, and iodine deficiency, were common in the past; however, now we see a surge in silent "hidden hungers" like micronutrient deficiencies, commonly iron, vitamin D, zinc, etc., as well as a sharp rise in obesity due to improper nutrition. A combination of excessive screen time with sedentary habits, frequent consumption of high salt and sugar foods, and a lack of healthy food choices like fruits and veggies have led to the childhood obesity surge.
Adult-onset diseases like obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and mental health issues are now being increasingly seen in younger adolescents due to inappropriate lifestyles.
Following Covid, there have been many dramatic changes in people's lives that not only affect adults but also kids. The reliance on digitization during COVID has had a significant impact on children's lifestyles. Yes, it gave our children uninterrupted learning even during shutdown times; however, that came with a cost. Children who experienced this abrupt lifestyle change of increased screen time, lack of going out to play, and exposure to friends and family; frequent access to snacks developed various health issues like obesity, anaemia, vitamin D deficiency, mental health issues, and respiratory ailments.
It is high time to relook at how children eat, play, connect, and build a strong foundation for their future health.
It is advised that parents plan a proper diet for their children. A simple formula to follow that is backed up with adequate research is to follow the healthy 5 on our plate. This is advisable for all ages above 2 years. Half the plate is to be fruits and veggies in any form, like cooked, raw, steamed, fried, etc. Quarter their plate only to have carbohydrates like grains. Making most grains whole grains like wheat or brown rice, millets are natural whole grains. The other quarter is to be proteins like dhals, and pulses. Protein comes mainly from plant sources, which are more lean and rich in micronutrients like sprouted grains, dried fruits, and nuts. To choose lean meats like eggs, chicken, and fish as protein sources. The 5th element is a diary which may include all forms of curds/ milk. Curds are rich in probiotics that maintain gut health and immunity and are mandatory to be part of the daily diet. Fresh home-based curds will not cause any increase in respiratory symptoms.
The child will be on the right path toward a healthy life if the parent includes these five items on his or her plate each day. The proportion of carbohydrates in Indian diets tends to be higher than that of proteins; hence, the main objective is to consume more protein and vitamins and a small number of carbohydrates to obtain a balanced diet. To know more consult with paediatric intensivist in Yeshwanthpur.
Also, how children eat is important. Eating with the family has innumerable advantages for later food choices. Never make your child eat in front of a screen; this research has proven beyond doubt that it will alter their satiety and food choices and lead to diseases like diabetes and obesity later in life. The long-term gains of the child having a healthy lifestyle far outweigh the immediate gains of eating their meals better.
Along with that, children require stimulation, whether it comes from play or conversation, to help them develop the life skills they will need. When a baby cries, smiles, or coos, parents are advised to converse with them by replying. This helps develop the child's social and communication skills while also demonstrating to them that their parents are there for them.
Similarly, older children need a lot of physical play and interaction with their peers. This is not through social media or digital sources. Direct contact with people and direct contact with nature calms them and is an important part of their holistic development.
Hence, to ensure children have free play outdoors atleast for an hour. Younger pre-schoolers are to get atleast 2 hours. Avoid screenplay, media recommendations are as follows- less than 2 years no media exposure, pre-schoolers 30 to 60 minutes in a day, older school kids apart from their regular school work not more than an hour. Adolescents now, with a boom in cell phone culture and social media, are the most difficult age group to enroll.
The best way is to regularly talk to them, telling them that social media at that tender age is exactly like tobacco and alcohol exposure, which cause harmful addictions; hence, it needs to be monitored as a health regulation in terms of providing child care treatment in Yeshwanthpur.
Parents need to physically monitor or be with their child during free browsing and online viewing, which can tailor the content they watch and prevent any cybercrimes or bullying.
A child’s connection with self is very important through adequate sleep and rest. Meditation should be encouraged at a young age. Sleep times for preschoolers are 11-12 hrs per day and schools age 9 hours a day and adolescents at least 8 hrs. Further, connecting with nature through simple walks, barefoot walking, and touch with plants and animals are essential for their holistic development. Vitamin D is produced only with adequate sun exposure. A healthy mind is a result of healthy environment contact. The lack of Nature contact in many children who are bonded indoors has led to vitamin N deficiency or the Nature effect.
Consultant - Paediatric Intensivist
Manipal Hospitals, Yeshwanthpur
5 min read