The health status of children relates to physical, emotional and spiritual factors that frequently determine their quality of life and their relationship to the world as they develop. Improving these areas is the responsibility of parents and community leaders who guide children in areas like nutritional health, encouraging kids to be involved in extracurricular activities, and making sure they develop relationships with family and friends.
1. AVOID SODA:
The sweetened, carbonated beverage is the most significant source of added sugar in the diet of American children, according to KidsHealth. Each 12-ounce serving of soda contains 150 calories and 10 teaspoons of sugar. Replacing soda with pure fruit juice, flavored sparkling water, or soy- or milk-based drinks is an effective way to reduce the amount of added sugar and calories in the diets of U.S. children. Be sure to read nutritional labels of beverages to ensure the sugar content is reasonable. Fruit juices include fructose, but the vitamins, minerals and fiber they provide may justify their sugar contribution.
2. EAT FRESH, WHOLE FOODS
The manufacturing industry began removing nutrients from flour’s whole grain wheat seed during World War II to extend its shelf life, which for the first time provided pre-made, convenient, flour-based foods for working women and their families. Other canned and prepared foods contain a high percentage of saturated fat and sodium. Spend time preparing fresh, whole foods at least a few nights each week that will reduce harmful nutrients in the diets of your children and promote healthful ones. Take a cue from the food and beverage industry that spends an estimated $10 billion each year marketing products to children, suggests Roxanne Khamsi in New Scientist magazine, by serving vegetables in brightly colored containers and using cookie cutters to transform them into stars, hearts and other shapes kids enjoy. A flower-shaped whole wheat pancake with apple sauce may be more appealing to a child than the refined grain, sugary standard pancake-and-syrup combination.
Children need to exercise for at least an hour each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They need to devote the majority of their physical efforts to cardiovascular exercise that includes walking, running and games like soccer, with the high-intensity activities included at least three days a week. Muscle-building exercises, such as gymnastics and push-ups, are also important. Weight-bearing exercises that build bone, such as jumping rope, is the third category of exercises that children need and should be part of their hour of exercise at least three times a week.
4. SPORTS INVOLVEMENT
Children who participate in sports are healthier and more socially skilled compared with inactive peers, according to Kate Fogarty, associate professor in the Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences at the University of Florida. Children often begin sports as early as 5 years old. They learn conflict resolution, team work and to interact with adult coaches in a supportive environment. Sports also introduce children to competition, which, when monitored and executed in a balanced and healthy way, prepares them for school and for their later work life.
5. HEALTH EDUCATION
Educating children about the importance of nutrition is essential for helping them achieve long-term health, according to pediatrician and natural foods advocate Dr. Barry Sears. Eating and preparing meals together is an effective way to reinforce nutritional information. Plant a garden and teach kids about vegetables and herbs and how they contribute to a healthy diet. Teach them to cook. Give them responsibilties for preparing meals that will appeal to their ever-increasing desire for independence. Allow them to invite friends to dinner occasionally to enforce the importance of their presence and contribution during mealtimes.