According to the World Health Organization, only one in ten people exercise regularly and a majority do not follow a healthy diet. The main culprit is our penchant for junk food as can be seen from the popularity of fast food chains and other western eateries. even local foods such as fried noodles, friend rice and snacks and savories are laden with fat and calories. Thus, consuming this type of food on a daily basis can contribute to weight gain. Overweight and obese people suffer from many health complications such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even cancer.
Hence, the emphasis on healthy lifestyle should start at a young age. Parents must urge their children to eat more vegetables, fruits, juices, wholemeal and wholegrain foods. Many parents, due to time constraint, usually find the easy way out by cooking two-minute noodles or heading towards the nearest fast food joint for quick meal. They do not realize however that sets the stage for an unhealthy lfestyle for their children who quickly become addicted to such foods. Thus, parents can counter this problem by cooking or preparing meals that do not take up time such as cheese sandwiches, soup, stir friend vegetables or buy pre-packed meals from supermarkets which can be warmed up in the microwave oven.
Dining out usually involves eating heavily and unhealthily. Most of us are prone to ordering deep fried food and oily dishes as opposed to steamed or baked food. Thus, though eating out is unavoidable, parents of children and adults as a hole should order fresh food and foods that are nutritious and not laden with oil, fat or sugar. Once a pattern of healthy eating is established, it would be easier to carry through such a lifestyle and for the children to follow suit.
School canteens must be urged to sell only highly nutritious food and drinks. Vending machines that sell soft drinks and drinks that are spiked with sugar should be banned. Hence, school going children would be exposed to healthy eating form young.
Daily exercise is vital. In fact, schools should implement Physical education on a daily basis rather than twice weekly. Only the minority are actively involved in sports. Most students are sedentary and prefer to concentrate on their studies as they consider indulging in physical activities a waste of time. By enforcing regular exercise daily, these students would be exposed to the importance and benefits of exercise.
Many parents and adults do not allocate time for physical activity. A large number of them work long hours and return home late thereby depriving themselves of the benefits of exercise. Parents must lead an exemplary life which can benefit their children by increasing awareness on the health benefits of exercising regularly. Bringing their children for walks in the morning or evening is a good start to achieve this goal. They should become members of clubs which have swimming pools and gym facilities. During the weekend, the family can strengthen their bond by adjourning to clubs for exercise and a healthy meal after that.
In short, leading a healthy lifestyle is a conscious decision. One can ignore that and lead a life that exposes one to many healthy hazards. it is important to recognize that a healthy living ensures a longer life span as well as a life free of disease and complications.
Lana Cook Audubon, NJ
As a mother of two small boys, ages three and a half and ten months, I put a lot of thought and energy into modeling a healthy lifestyle, from preparing healthy meals and snacks, to making sure they get outside for active play as much as possible. A key factor to our healthy lifestyle is the food choices that are made in my home everyday, both by my children and me. With regard to feeding my boys—husband included—there are a few simple rules that I live by: plan meals, prepare food, partner up, and prettify the plates!
My philosophy on meal planning is two-fold: make a plan (and a grocery list) and cook at home. I like to serve home cooked meals every night, and I know that if I didn’t plan them ahead of time, this would not be possible. I have a list of general items that I purchase weekly, including organic eggs, milk, yogurt and cheese, but aside from those items, I plan our meals around the seasonal fruits and vegetables that are advertised as on sale for that week. I am not only cost conscious; I adhere to a strict no-waste policy, and I plan meals accordingly. For example, I often follow chicken parmigiana with homemade veggie pizza, to ensure that the remaining sauce and cheese are put to use; or, in the winter, I turn left over sauce into vegetarian chili—nothing goes to waste in our home. I even freeze bananas and berries, to use later in smoothies, before they become overly ripe. I believe that modeling an appreciation, gratitude, and respect for food is a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle, and I try to foster this attitude in my sons.
Serving a home cooked meal every night is not as challenging or time-consuming as it sounds, though it does involve a bit of planning and preparation. I take a few hours on ‘grocery day’ to prepare the food I purchased and to make sure that I can easily cook a healthy meal each night throughout the week. I chop and store two days worth of vegetables for Monday and Tuesday’s dinners, and I also chop and store either a pineapple or a melon to keep in the fridge as a quick and delicious snack. If I plan to serve chicken or steak, I buy in bulk and portion and freeze it as soon as I get home.
My sons are not picky eaters; I believe they are more flexible because they feel connected to the processes involved in shopping, cooking, and preparing food. I involve them as much as possible when I select the food we eat. I never go to the grocery store without them, and they both love to touch, and discuss—or learn about—everything that goes into our cart. If they are not selecting their vegetables from the store, then they are choosing them from our garden. My husband and I encourage our older son to plant, pick, water, and weed the garden with us. He loves to go into the garden and pick fresh strawberries, or ripe red tomatoes off the vine, and it has given him a connection with his food that he would otherwise miss out on. We also take them on seasonal hayrides at a local farm, where children are invited to pick various fruits and veggies at each stop.
Cooking is a family affair in my home; I always offer samples as I cook, and I encourage my older son to help out. His favorite things to do are scoop melon directly from a halved and de-seeded cantaloupe, or pour ingredients into a bowl and, with my guidance, use a mixer to combine them. He is a part of each meal from start to finish, and my younger son is also involved, as both my toddler and I have fun introducing new foods to him.
Once everything else is in place, I try to make meals look fun and beautiful by serving an array of colors, textures, and dipping sauces. For example, my older son loves to dip fire-engine red tomatoes in vibrant green pesto, and my younger son loves pureed sweet potatoes and firm brown rice. I love presenting my sons with a good-looking array of healthful foods. I have found that ramekins are a great way to get kids excited about eating their veggies. For some reason, they like to see each item on their plate displayed exclusively, so each night at dinner, I fill a ramekin with fresh fruit and another with a fresh vegetable; some favorites are melon, blueberries, edamame and green beans—they love them all!
My sons have fun in the kitchen. It is not a place that we stop in to grab a quick snack; it is a place where we spend quality time together learning about the beauty of the nutritious foods that sustain us. Mealtime is an opportunity for me to bond with my children, appreciate whatever is before us, and be thankful for how it got there.
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