Get an early start on a healthy diet

Janet Foerster, mother of 15-month-old Evelyn, is trying to introduce her daughter to healthy habits early in life. She keeps many fresh veggies in the house and promotes all kinds of healthy foods, some of which she doesn’t herself eat.

“We have a nutritionist that we are in contact with and discuss (Evelyn’s) weight and the food she eats and the amount of food she eats,” Foerster said.

“I also have a Canada’s Food Guide posted to my fridge for one- to-three-year-olds that guides us into appropriate serving sizes and selection for food.”

In September, the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario launched a print and online resource to assist nurses in promoting healthy eating and more physical activity for children and youths.

Extra weight, extra worry

The guideline has 17 recommendations for nurses, focusing on healthy behaviours rather than weight, emphasizing fruits and vegetables in place of calorie-filled snacks and recommending at least 90 minutes of activity each day.

According to a 2001 report by the Public Health Agency of Canada, between 1981 and 1986, the percentage of obese children between seven and 13 tripled.

As well as causing other health problems, the extra weight increases their risk of developing type-two diabetes as children, a disease more commonly known as ‘adult-onset diabetes’.

Catherine Ivanyshyn, a certified nutrition practitioner, believes that parents should start promoting healthy behaviour early in their child’s life. She recommends parents begin their healthy lifestyle at pregnancy and continue eating responsibly from that time onward.

“You are a parent and (your children) depend on you for health, safety and learning until they can make appropriate choices for themselves,” Ivanyshyn said.

Ivanyshyn also stresses the importance of exercise to keep children healthy. Whether they are in the playground with their friends or going out in the yard, it’s important that children do not develop sedentary habits such as watching too much television or playing videogames for hours.

‘Nutrition and fitness work hand in hand’

“There is no replacement for physical activity,” Ivanyshyn said.   “Nutrition and fitness work hand in hand.”

Foerster promotes exercise in her home. They go for walks as a family, chase each other around the house and dance to the radio when cooking supper. Foerster realizes the importance of her and her husband being good role models for her daughter, something that Ivanyshyn agrees with.

“I think that it’s important for her to see her mom and dad getting out and exercising regularly,” Foerster said.

With experts and parents focusing more on the health of children they have a better chance to grow up strong and teach their own children the value of a healthy lifestyle.

Filed from The Centre for Creative Communications