Nutrition and sports are crucial to children’s wholesome development.
It seems only sensible – a child requires not just a well-balanced diet but regular physical activity. Unfortunately, ensuring that children have a well-balanced diet and lead active lives remains a challenge for parents, particularly in developing countries.
A well-balanced diet – one that has a healthy balance of carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals – is essential as it ensures that children have enough energy and nutrition for optimal growth and development.
In Malaysia, however, studies reflect that the typical diet of children is high in oil, fats and sugar. A joint study by the International Medical University and Universiti Putra Malaysia showed that Malaysian children aged one to 10 are not consuming their recommended daily nutritional needs. If children lack the correct nutritional components in their diet, they will not have enough energy for the day, let alone for physical activities. In the long run, this could lead to serious health issues in children.
The rising obesity problem among Malaysian children should perhaps ring alarm bells for parents. Statistics from the 2011 National Health and Morbidity Survey indicate that one in seven children in Malaysia are affected by childhood obesity. These figures are alarming as obese children are at high risk of becoming obese adults, which puts them at risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes later in life.
The panacea is simple: maintain a healthy diet and include regular physical activity for children.
Eat right, exercise well
More than one-third of children in Malaysia aren’t achieving their recommended nutritional intake, according to the Nutrition Survey of Malaysian Children (Seanuts Malaysia). These children aren’t getting enough nutrients for energy or enough calcium and Vitamin D. Instead, their diets are rich in fat, sugar and oil. Not having a balanced diet has dire consequences – children lack the energy to power their brain, resulting in low mental alertness, fatigue and learning difficulties. Parents play a large part in ensuring their children get the required nutrients to grow up healthy and well.
By teaching them healthy eating habits and modelling these behaviours for them to follow, parents can help children maintain a healthy weight and normal growth. Also, the eating habits children pick up when they are young will help them maintain a healthy lifestyle when they are adults.
Healthy eating, however, is one part of the solution. The other is shifting children’s attention from television screens and electronic gadgets to the outdoors.
Mother of two Maria Abdul Moloh believes today’s children lack a love for sports.
There has been immense shift over the years in children’s extracurricular activities – from physical or outdoor activities to indoor video games and television.
“We are not quite there yet. Books are an important part of life but sports will make you an all-rounder. Sports allows children to destress and be less conscious about their physical appearance. Parents need to spend enough time with their children doing outdoor activities. If we just sit at home and watch television, our children will tend to do the same,” says Maria whose children are seven and nine.
It is with this in mind that Milo started their Institute of Champions, to lend parents and children a helping hand to kickstart a healthy lifestyle by eating well and being active. The institute provides parents the information and tools to help their children to become “champions” through a number of platforms that encourage children to be involved in sports at various levels.
One such platform is the Milo Hidup Bola futsal tournament, which is currently the largest annual futsal competition in the country with over 1,000 teams participating during the competition.
Dr Ariff Ikram Zakaria, coach and founder of Primer FC, one of the teams in the Hidup Bola futsal tournaments, says he started the futsal team four years ago because he not only loves the game but derives satisfaction from seeing young players realise their potential.
“From my experience, physical ability and technique are important, but what is most important is a player’s drive to succeed. By getting the right kind of nutrition in their daily meals, they are able to give their best every time they step on the pitch. This is what champions are made of and it is my sincere hope that one of my players will one day be able to put on the colours of the Jalur Gemilang and represent the nation one day,” he says.
“Good health is central to human happiness and well-being. It also makes an important contribution to economic progress, as a healthy population lives longer, is more productive, and saves more. We need to think about our children’s well-being and their future. Their future starts from us parents.
“Success, we believe, is the child’s wholesome development and positive experiences as they move into adulthood – whether the traits are tangible or intangible.
“So eat right, study hard, and exercise daily. Our little champions need a well-balanced life to go further every day. I really hope all of us can spread this message and change our current environment,” says Nestle Products Sdn Bhd Dairy Business Unit Executive Director Ho Hau Chieh.
Go to www.milo.com.my/champions to find out more about how to get your child on the path to becoming a champion wholesomely – with right nutrition and regular physical activities through sports. This article is provided by Milo.