With the worldwide lockdowns due to the pandemic, the usual daily routines of children have undergone a drastic change.
Being stuck at home, it has been observed that children are eating additional meals and sleeping more than usual. They are also spending more time in front of screens, whether it is to keep in touch with friends or for online classes and exams. Also with a limited scope of physical activity, lockdowns could be putting kids at higher risk for becoming overweight or obese, according to an observational study recently published in the journal Obesity.
However, these unhealthy lifestyles can be curbed by consuming nutritious food along with daily exercises and yoga for physical and mental wellbeing.
A substantial body of research suggests that efforts to prevent pediatric obesity may benefit from targeting not just what a child eats, but how they eat.
In fact The American Heart Association has shared the following dietary recommendation for infants, children and adolescents to promote cardiovascular health.
- Breast-feeding is ideal nutrition and sufficient to support optimal growth and development for about the first 4–6 months after birth. Try to maintain breast-feeding for 12 months.
- Delay introducing 100 percent juice until at least 6 months of age
- Don’t overfeed infants and young children
- Introduce healthy foods and keep offering them if they’re initially refused.
For Families with Children In The Age Group 2-18:
- Eat foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars
- Keep total fat intake between 30 to 35 percent of calories for children 2 to 3 years of age and between 25 to 35 percent of calories for children and adolescents 4 to 18 years of age, with most fats coming from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as fish, nuts and vegetable oils.
- Choose a variety of foods to get enough carbohydrates, protein and other nutrients.
- Kids should be physically active for at least 60 minutes a day.
- Serve whole-grain/high-fiber breads and cereals rather than refined grain products.
- Serve a variety of fruits and vegetables daily, while limiting juice intake. Each meal should contain at least 1 fruit or vegetable.
- For non-vegetarians introduce and regularly serve fish as an entrée. Avoid commercially fried fish.
- Serve fat-free and low-fat dairy foods. From ages 1–8, children need 2 cups of milk or its equivalent each day. Children ages 9–18 need 3 cups.
We asked Karena Adnani, a clinical dietitian who runs her successful practice “Did I Eat That” and has curated diet plans for many celebrities, to address a few questions around kid’s nutrition and health, especially during the lockdown.
1. Since children study from home, many indulge in unhealthy snack like chips and sugary food. What can be done to prevent this?
Parents must purchase food items that require no cooking, like Date Energy balls or Yakult to improve digestion and boost energy levels. You can also let kids snack on nuts and dried fruits which are a healthy substitute for junk food. Also devise healthy snack breaks. Online schooling and virtual classes cause a lot of exhaustion. Parents can create fun snacks for kids to help them refresh and also take some time off from their screens. Make colourful smoothies with their favourite fruits or cut up fruits and veggies into fun shapes to promote healthy snacking habits in them. You can also give them nuts like almonds or cashews instead of packaged chips and sweets.
2. Is it advisable for parents to force their children to finish their meal?
Many times, parents force their children to eat healthy food and finish their veggies. However, in many cases this can lead to the child rejecting it altogether or developing an aversion to it.
Instead, pair healthy food with foods they already like. Make colourful meals and include children in the cooking process as that can make them interested in eating healthier food options. It is also important to teach kids the value of nutrients in every food item.
3. With the climate getting hotter by the day, is there anything specific that parents should pay attention with regard to their children diet?
Promote healthy drinking habits. Water helps to carry nutrients, aids in digestion and flushes out toxins from one’s body. It is hence important to consume the right amount of water every day. Instead of packaged, sugary juices, make fresh juices at home. Make drinking water more fun by adding cucumbers, limes or mint in water. They can also give immunity-boosting kadas with tulsi and ginger or turmeric milk to increase resistance to infection.
4. How can parents ensure that kids are getting enough physical activity and mental breaks?
Combine exercise with fun activities that your child enjoys, like dancing, scavenger hunts or even activities that can help improve their attention span like board games and puzzles. Practice meditation and deep breathing techniques.
5. Are there any tips to boost immunity in kids?
Immunity is not something that can be achieved overnight. Parenst must not forget that even though some quick remedies do work, it is also important to ensure that kids eat a balanced and diverse meal with all the necessary micro and macro nutrients. A simple rule to ensure your child gets adequate nutrients is to include ‘Two- a – day’ of protein, vegetables, fruits, and grains.
6. Is there anything besides nutrition and activity that affects kids health?
Insufficient sleep can dampen immune response. Make sure your child gets 10-12 hours of good quality, stress free sleep. Also limit social media and news consumption for your child and for yourself. Encourage journaling of thoughts in order to help vent emotions or any anxiety that your child might be facing. Set a time out as a family to listen to your child and ask them how they are coping.
7. What can one do if their child gets infected?
Look for early COVID signs such as loss of sense of smell, nausea, drop or loss in appetite, lethargy or low energy levels and dullness. Speak to your paediatric for medication and make sure you’re including semi-solid, soft foods, or a liquid diet for your children. Warm soups, porridges, khichdis, or broths can be given which are easy to digest. With your paediatrician’s advice, you can also include a Zinc and Vitamin C supplement to help in the recovery process.
8. Any advice for lactating mothers?
For kids who are currently on breast milk, I would advise mothers to nurse them for as long as possible. Nothing strengthens the immunity of an infant as much as breast milk.
About Karena Adnani:
Karena Adnani is a Clinical Dietitian with a passion for spreading awareness on the importance of nutrition in improving quality of life.
She has a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from Boston University and a Post Graduate degree in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics from SNDT University. She runs a successful clinical practice, “Did I Eat That” which aims to prevent lifestyle disorders by helping people incorporate balanced meals.
Her client-centered approach and nutrition counselling rooted in scientific evidence has helped her to customize diet plans for celebrities such as Siddharth Malhotra, Vicky Kaushal, and Rakul Preet Singh. She is also an active member of the Indian Dietetic Association (IDA), a health consultant for corporates such as HPCL (Hindustan Petroleum), E&Y (Ernst Young) and has conducted various workshops on the relationship between food and mood.
With the onset of the pandemic, she has provided virtual consultations and steered many webinars on curbing stress eating, boosting immunity, and holistic meal planning.
For more health and nutrition tips follow Karena Adnani on Instagram.
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