Get a healthy start

  • Family
  • Thursday, 20 Mar 2014

Don’t let the morning rush get in the way of a good breakfast.

THE South East Asia Nutrition Survey (Seanuts) of 16,744 children in four countries − Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia − showed that almost one in 10 children in urban areas in Malaysia are showing signs of under-nutrition based on their weight to age ratio; the percentage of rural children is only slightly lower.

The study, conducted from May 2010 to October 2011 in six regions across the country, also revealed that one in 10 children in Malaysia are stunted for their age, a symptom that may be irreversible and is most commonly seen to be due to a lack of proper dietary habits. On the other hand, nearly one in five children are facing the issue of over-nutrition.

In Malaysia, almost one in two children are low on Vitamin D, based on the Recommended Nutrient Intakes (RNI) for Malaysia as stipulated by the Malaysian Ministry of Health. There is also widespread calcium under-nutrition among Malaysia’s children; about half the children are not consuming enough calcium through their daily dietary intake. Calcium and Vitamin D are commonly known to be essential for proper physical development and the healthy formation of bones in children.

Nestle’s Milo is keen to do their part in raising healthy children by educating parents on Positive Energy, which can be attained by eating right and keeping active.

Knowledge about what makes good nutritional meals is key to raising healthy children, said Nestle’s Executive Director-Dairy Business Unit Manager Ho Hau Chieh.

Ho adds that it is vital for children to eat well-balanced meals as it’s important for their physical, mental and emotional development.

“From age five, children will participate in strenuous activities, make friends and begin to shape their lives. Therefore, it is important for a parent to offer their children the appropriate amount of nutrients in their daily diets.

“However, what has been a growing concern in our society is that kids are still going to school with empty stomachs,” said Ho, adding most households have ignored the saying ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ because of time constraints.

“Parents’ main concern in the morning is to beat the traffic so they could get their kids to school on time, and be punctual for work. This leaves them with little time to prepare a hearty breakfast.

“But imagine a scenario where a child gets to school and has only 10 to 15 minutes to spare before the bell rings. The child usually does not have time to queue and have a proper breakfast before school starts. Most children probably have to wait till recess, which is a good two to three hours into school time and probably a good five hours from the time they wake up, for their first meal of the day. They would have gone hungry for a few hours, leading to lethargy and poor concentration in class,” explained Ho.

It is not only important to feed children breakfast, stressed Ho, but also vital for parents to know the right ratios and food components their children require to grow into healthy adults.

“The five key nutrients parents need to provide in their children’s diets are fat, carbohydrates, calories, protein and vitamins.

“If children are offered an excess or shortage of any of these nutrients, it can lead to fatigue, malnourishment, obesity and more,” said Ho.

Discovering what is lacking in your children’s daily requirements is the first step in developing healthy eating habits and lifestyles, said senior nutritionist Nurul Iliani Ahmad.

“If time constraint is one of the challenges of feeding your family well-balanced meals, look for a simpler solutions. Malaysians are fond of fried noodles and rice. Adding vegetables, meat and eggs can turn these dishes into proper meals with all the required nutrients,” said Nurul Iliani.

She also emphasised the importance of including children in food preparations.

“One thing I have noticed about children is that they are curious about what goes into their stomachs. Try and involve your children in your daily cooking activities. List the ingredients you use in your meals and explain how they can help their body develop,” offered Nurul Iliani.

Introducing children to a variety of food is also a good way to encourage them to eat better.

“Parents don’t always have to deny children their favourite dishes. Everything can be consumed in moderation.

“If your children insist on having fried chicken, offer it to them but also insist they have a portion of vegetables to achieve balance,” said the 29-year-old nutritionist who is familiar with children’s eating habits.

However, Nurul Iliani also pointed out that every parent must equip themselves with the right kind of knowledge when it comes to feeding their family.

“It is important for parents to be aware of the ratios of nutrients their children need to consume per day. The recommended contribution of macronutrients (i.e. carbohydrate, fat and protein) to total daily energy intake should be within the following ratio: 55-70% of carbohydrate, 20-30% of fat and 10-15% of protein.

“When grocery shopping, always have this thought in mind, so you end up taking home the right kind of food types,” she said.

Parents also need to show examples of good eating habits, so their children can follow suit. “Eating healthily is just part of the journey to a healthy household. Grab those running shoes and encourage your kids to go for a run in the park, or play their favourite outdoor games with them,” encouraged Nurul Iliani.

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Get a healthy start


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