I was shocked to discover recently that childhood obesity rates across the globe are at an all-time high. In fact, recent research shows that one in four South African pre-schoolers are either considered to be overweight or obese. As a mom myself, I find this really sad- and something we, as a community, have to change.
The role of diet and exercise
The 2016 Healthy Active Kids South Africa (HAKSA) Report coordinated by the Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA) and supported by Discovery Vitality – has revealed various aspects of activity and eating behaviour in South African children and youth aged 6 to 18. “For the first time in history, there are more children who are overweight and obese, compared to those who are under-nourished or stunted,” says Professor Vicki Lambert, who has spearheaded the South African report initiative since its inception in 2007. “Both these challenges are robbing children of reaching their full potential, and both demand our urgent attention.”
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The report has also shown that:
- South African teens consume more than one soft drink per day, and three times the recommended amount of sugar per week. High sugar consumption is linked to a host of chronic diseases.
- Most children eat less than one portion of fruit or vegetables per day. The recommendation is five per day.
- There are 30 million consumers of fast food in South Africa, up by 10 million in the last 5 years.
- Children watch TV for an average of three hours and day, with significant numbers watching five hours a day.
While none of this is particularly good news, the truth is that as parents we’re holding our children’s future’s in our hands and we can change and influence the way they eat, while encouraging more exercise every day.
The sugar trap
Where to start? Well, as a wellness expert with 15 years’ experience, I believe that one of the biggest culprits to an unhealthy diet and a host of chronic diseases is sugar. Numerous studies have proven that sugar is really bad for kids too, as it’s been linked to tooth decay and dental cavities in children as young as four, as well as weight gain and poor concentration.
Given the fact that sugar is hidden in several foods, including bread, peanut butter, yoghurt and even tomato sauce, it’s no surprise that the average child aged 1-3 consumes about 12 teaspoons of sugar each day. And, according to the American Heart Association, the average 4-8-year-old takes in 21 teaspoons. The accepted daily amount for children is no more than 3-4 teaspoons per day, so it’s critical that we start reducing our children’s sugar intake now, starting with sugary drinks and juices.
How to reduce your child’s sugar intake
Whether it’s a sweetened chocolate drink before bed or fruit juice throughout the school day, or a quick visit to the vending machine for a soft drink, we all know that children love sugary drinks. So rather than simply banning all sweet drinks in your home, I suggest being a little smarter about it, and slowly swapping your children’s soft drinks with fruit-infused water instead. By doing this, your child gets a double benefit as they’re drinking more water plus munching on some healthy fruit pieces – and getting closer to their “five a day”.
Fruit-infused waters made easy
I find the Sistema Klip It Jug really convenient when making fruity waters for my family because the jug has the following great features:
- Easy flow, non-drip angled spout for pouring (it seals tight too!)
- It comes with the KLIP IT easy locking clips
- It’s dishwasher (top rack), microwave (without lid), fridge and freezer safe
- It’s phthalate and BPA free, which is a big bonus in my home.
To make fruit-infused waters for kids, use these tips as a guide:
- Always chop up fruit before adding it to the water as the flavour is infused better
- Use sweeter fruits such as pineapple, grapes and strawberries for kids
- Oranges aren’t only budget-friendly, they’re also full of flavour and high in vitamin C
- Infuse your fruit in the water jug at room temperature, at least 3-4 hours before you plan to drink it
- If you and your family like stronger flavours, try adding lemons, limes and a few herbs to your waters too. A little grated ginger is also ideal for winter!
- You can also make fruit-infused ice cubes for parties and pop them easily into your Sistema Klip It Jug. To make fruity ice cubes, fill your ice tray halfway with water, slice fruits or herbs finely, then submerge in the water and press them down slightly. You can also mix and match different fruits such as blueberries and raspberries for a change. Then add a tiny bit of water to the top and freeze. Once they’re frozen, add them to your jug of water and there you have it!
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