Last updated on Mar 15th, 2021 at 09:04 am

“Globally, less than 20% of kids meet recommendations for physical activity,” says head of Discovery Vitality Wellness, Craig Nossel. “Ours is the first generation of children set to have a shorter life span than their parents.” Craig, a father of teenage twins adds, “While we can’t be with our kids 24/7, we can empower them to learn the difference between a healthy and unhealthy choice of their own accord.”

Our kids are getting more obese

South Africa is a country of devastating extremes. One in four city-dwelling preschoolers is overweight or obese, yet in rural settings 74% of children are underweight.

An obese boy between the ages of four and eight years is 20 times more likely to be obese by the age of 16 than his peers of a normal weight, while girls are 42 times more likely. This is according to the Healthy Active Kids South Africa Report Card (HAKSA), a global initiative of the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, supported by Discovery Vitality. The report also found that, on average, South African teens drink more than one soft drink per day and have a weekly sugar and salt intake far higher than recommended.

How parents can help prevent eating disorders

Candice Smith, head of nutrition strategy at Discovery Vitality and a mother of three, understands it can be tricky to raise healthy children. Disordered eating can often be traced back to early experiences with food deprivation or excess, says Candice. “Severely restricting foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt increases children’s preference for these foods.”

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She also advises parents should not withhold food, force children to eat foods, or negotiate around food. “Don’t reward kids with unhealthy foods. Using food as a reward for good behaviour or success increases the risk of binge-eating and other eating disorders. Rather consider non-food rewards – a trip, new art supplies, extra reading time before bed, listening to music or playing a game.” Here are Smith’s top tips for keeping a family’s diet healthy and exciting:

10 ways a Vitality dietitian helps her kids make better food choices

  1. My overall priority is to create and encourage a healthy relationship with food – to teach my children to recognise how good whole food makes their bodies feel.
  2. I keep mealtimes interesting by eating seasonally – a wide variety of fruit and vegetables tend to be less expensive and taste better in season.
  3. I ensure nutritious options rather than restricting snacks. For example, instead of a plate of fried potato chips, I’ll offer baked sweet potato wedges, cut fruit and veggie sticks.
  4. I include my children in the cooking process. We’ve been to kids’ classes at Discovery’s HealthyFood Studio and they’ve loved making whole-wheat pasta or home-made tomato sauce.
  5. When shopping with my kids I allow them one treat per shop, but ensure I am in the fruit, butchery and dairy aisles first. They’re munching on their treat by the time we get to the danger zone – the sweet aisle.
  6. I encourage a fussy eater to try new flavours by telling kids to at least try everything once before telling me they don’t like it. I also continue to put a food they’ve previously redused on their plates and encourage them to try one bite.
  7. When eating out, I offer my kids healthy foods along with small portions of indulgent foods. For example, a protein and vegetables with a small portion of chips on the side.
  8. I use child-appropriate cutlery. Big bowls or plates make for big appetites and lead children to ask for up to 52% more food – and waste more.
  9. I ask my kids I’d they’re satisfied rather than full to help them think about achieving satisfaction, not fullness.
  10. Getting 25% cash-back through the Discovery Vitality HealthyFood benefit helps me to buy more of the vegetables, fruit and nuts that empower my kids to choose from various healthy snacks on offer between meals.

“Ultimately, a focus on bringing as many healthy options as possible into our children’s lives will automatically crowd out the unhealthy choices,” concludes Craig. “By making healthy options abundant in our children’s lives, we begin the revolution that turns the tide on the HAKSA 2016 findings and on global childhood obesity.”

Stand a chance to win a Disneyland Paris experience!

Are you a healthy Vitality family? Do you have children aged 2 – 18?

Then you could win a 5-star experience in Disneyland Paris! There are also five Disney hampers up for grabs. All you have to do is eat healthier as a family before 31 December 2018 with the Vitality HealthyFood benefit. Join in the fun as Vitality and Disney celebrate Mickey Mouse’s 90th Anniversary in 2018 and add a little magic to your family time. Find out more here. Not a Vitality member? SMS “Disney” to 47751 and they will call you back.