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Healthy Kids... For Life!

Happy and healthy!

Australia's children are getting bigger by the generation. The obesity epidemic that is sweeping our nation is a worrying trend - but what can be done about it? A lot actually!

Children need special care to make sure that they get the right balance of food, physical activity and play. But it's not so easy these days. Juggling busy schedules, hectic work places, exercise routines and social occasions can be difficult, and grabbing a convenience meal or takeaways can seem like the only option.

However, there are some easy ways to help your child stay healthy. Read on to find out more.

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A chance at a healthy life

The obesity rate among children has more than tripled over the last 20 years - mainly due to poor diet and a lack of exercise. If you're wondering why it's important to make sure your child eats a balanced diet and gets enough physical activity, consider these facts.

Children, aged 8 to 15 years old, who are in the upper half of the normal weight range are more likely than their leaner peers to become overweight or obese as young adults. This study, published in the Obesity Research journal, isn't talking about those kids who are overweight as a child, but those who are simply at the higher end of the normal weight range.

Another study found that children who watched television for more than two hours per day were more likely to suffer serious health problems as young adults, such as obesity and high cholesterol levels, and may be more likely to develop harmful habits, such as taking up cigarette smoking. Children who watched less than one hour of television per day were considerably healthier.

Increasing reports of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure in children aged eight to 17 is another worrying trend. High blood pressure can lead to heart disease and stroke, not something anyone would wish on their child.

With the ever rising medical costs to cope with obesity-related health problems, both our country's and our children's futures are at stake.

What should children eat?

A balanced diet should include plenty of fresh fruit

A balanced diet is vital for supplying all the nutrients that growing children need. Nutrition Australia recommends the following guidelines for children and adolescents:

  • Eat plenty of vegetables, legumes and fruits
  • Eat plenty of cereals (including breads, rice, pasta and noodles), preferably wholegrain
  • Include lean meat, fish, poultry and/or alternatives
  • Include milks, yoghurts, cheese and/or alternatives
    Note: Reduced-fat milks are not suitable for young children under 2 years, because of their high energy needs, but reduced-fat varieties should be encouraged for older children and adolescents
  • Choose water as a drink
    Note: Alcohol is not recommended for children

Care should be taken to:

  • Limit saturated fat and moderate total fat intake
    Note: Low-fat diets are not suitable for infants
  • Choose foods low in salt
  • Consume only moderate amounts of sugars and foods containing added sugars

Both children and teens also need lots of physical activity - at least 60 minutes each day. This doesn't mean you need to send your six-year-old out for morning laps of the school oval, but you should encourage them to play actively and you may need to monitor how much time they spend participating in passive activities (such as playing computer games or watching television).

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