Raising Healthy Adults with Dr. Michael Mol

Are we raising healthy adults? The latest statistics show that less than half of South Africa’s children participate in enough vigorous physical activity to promote health benefits. As a result 1 in 6 kids under fourteen are classified as overweight or obese. Childhood obesity is a risk factor for several chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, arthritis and high blood pressure (the list goes on!) – not to mention the impact that obesity has on self-esteem and social development.

How can we help as parents and caregivers?

If you’re a parent, and you’re interested in raising healthy adults, take a minute to consider this: Parental obesity more than doubles the risk of adult obesity among both obese and non-obese children under 10 years of age. As parents we obviously play a vital role when it comes to our children’s health, in fact your child’s health begins with your health.

Lead by example

We share pretty much everything with our kids – money (mostly) but also attitudes and behaviours. The most recent research has found that kids whose parents encourage them to exercise and eat well, and model those healthy behaviours themselves, are more likely to be active, healthy eaters during childhood and adolescence.

Raising healthy adults involves encouragement and teaching

It may surprise you to learn that bribing kids to finish everything on their plate in return for dessert means they’re in danger of not knowing when to stop eating. Remember it takes 20 minutes for your brain to recognise when your stomach is full. So taking the time to eat slowly and enjoy a meal together is not only great bonding time, it means eating fewer kilojoules, appreciating the taste and goodness of your food. I’d also suggest serving slightly smaller portions, and encourage your kids to listen to their bodies – eat when hungry, and stop when full.

Repetition is the mother of skill

Getting kids to eat their greens can be challenging, but research consistently shows that that the more times you offer a food, the more likely a child will be to warm up to it. On average, kids have to taste a new food fifteen times before they begin to like it, so don’t give up! And while you’re training their tastebuds, it’s a good idea to supplement their diets with a good multivitamin, assuming of course, you’re doing and modelling the same!

Find some sneaky ways to bring in healthy food and exercise

Finally, just as you might secretly smuggle a few extra veggies into dinnertime (adding grated carrot to a lasagne works a treat), there are heaps of sneaky ways of adding extra physical activity to your kid’s day. Involve them in gardening, cleaning the house or washing the car, whatever! It will help take the load off you too, and help them reach the global recommendations for kids of 60 minutes of vigorous physical activity each day.

Children aren’t likely to change their diet and activity habits on their own, so it’s up to you to make it easier for your entire family (and yourself) to make and model healthy choices. Our children will remember a handful things we told them, but they’ll never forget how we lived.

Raising healthy adults is your responsibility, but it doesn’t need to be so hard if you can try out these tips. Home is where the heart is – and it’s up to you to make sure all the hearts in your family are healthy!

A note from Vital’s Experts:

Raising healthy adults is Vital! Our kids range offers various ways to supplement your children’s diets with nutrients to prevent deficiencies and support their health.