Healthy eating and lifestyle habits are essential for children's learning and wellbeing, and to prevent them becoming overweight. The Ministry of Health recommends:
- Eat breakfast every day
- Limit take-away meals to no more than once a week
- Eat meals together. This turns dinner into a social occasion where news is shared and parents can keep an eye on what their children are eating.
- Do not eat while watching TV. Children (and adults) eat more when watching TV.
- Sugary drinks (including fruit juice) should be limited to special occasions. Offer plain milk or water.
- Limit screen time to a maximum of 2 hours per day.
- Ensure children get enough sleep - lack of sleep is associated with increased weight.
- Aim for about 60 minutes of physical activity per day for children, which can include fun time at the playground or going for a walk with you and the dog.
Sugar in Drinks
In New Zealand the consumption of sugary drinks is increasing, which may contribute to the growing number of children and adults becoming overweight or obese.
Sugar is high in energy, and when we consume more calories than we burn, we will put on weight. Sugar in drinks becomes 'empty calories' because the drink usually contains no valuable nutrients, and does nothing to satisfy hunger.
Fruit juice contains the same amount of sugar as soft drinks (fizzy) - about 10 teaspoons of sugar in a 350ml bottle (or a large glass). A glass of orange juice contains the sugar of several oranges - so drink water and eat the whole fruit instead. You will feel fuller and consume less sugar.
If you drink a 600ml bottle of soft drink a day, you will consume 2kg of sugar a month.
Water is by far the best drink for both children and adults. If your child is used to sweet drinks they may protest when you give them water, but do persevere until they get used to it. You can start by diluting the sweet drink with water, gradually adding more and more water.
Sports drinks/energy drinks are not necessary for children, even if they play a lot of sport. They just need water to drink, and maybe a healthy snack before and after exercise.
Your public health nurse is: Nikki McMillan on 433 1162 or 027 223 8468 or email firstname.lastname@example.org