By Joyce Reyes-Aguila
The Manila Bulletin recently released research findings of the World Health Organization (WHO) about Filipinos and noncommunicable diseases (NCD). In the article “Time for action to stop the deadliest diseases in the Philippines,” it was revealed that the number of obese Filipinos doubled in the last two decades, including the country’s young population. Thirty percent of Filipino youth were found to suffer from stunting – “a condition which further predisposes them to risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease later in life.”
At present, NCDs kill an estimated 300,000 Pinoys annually. To reduce the number of NCD-related deaths by one third by 2030, vital steps are being taken by the government and the WHO. Efforts include regulating the marketing of unhealthy food and drinks, providing nutrition labels, and promoting healthy diets and physical activity. During the implementation of these programs, the role of the family will be extremely vital in encouraging our youth to live healthier.
Families, especially parents, heavily influence an individual’s preferences in food, physical activities like exercise (or lack of it), and lifestyle habits. They also play a crucial part in the developing the discipline of kids in many aspects, like how long they watch television and use gadgets. Since children are more likely to adopt the habits they observe at home, proactively developing healthy habits like the following should be a main goal of every family:
- Develop positive food perception.
How your family views food affects how its members eat, according to the piece “Healthy habits start at home” by dailylocal.com. “The best thing you can do to help your child eat healthier is to adopt a healthy attitude toward food yourself,” it says. “You can change your habits once you understand and are aware of what you are choosing. Stressed? Learn to express your feelings and needs verbally. Bored? Do something you love to do that doesn’t involve food. Happy? Celebrate by doing something special with the family. It is even possible to eat healthy while on vacation. Start by making small changes and view every day as a new opportunity to model healthy behaviors for your child.”
- Drink plenty of water.
Bodily functions like digestion, circulation, and maintaining our body’s temperature all require water. Staying hydrated helps our body transport nutrients, cleanse, and maintain healthy skin, among others. On the other hand, dehydration results to feeling tired and can even cause muscle cramps when we exercise. Develop the habit of drinking water regularly in your home.
- Plan and enjoy meals together.
The American Heart Association encourages families to get kids involved in the planning and cooking of meals at home. Doing so “develops good eating habits together and the quality time… (will be an added bonus). When everyone sits down together to eat, there’s less chance of children eating the wrong food or snacking too much,” the group says. The article “Healthy eating habits start at home” also reminds everyone that eating healthier starts with the ingredients used to cook. Always remember that there are healthier substitutes to ingredients, like healthier oils or herbs and spices instead of salt to lessen your sodium intake.
- Encourage movement.
Walk the dog. Take a stroll around the village park. After meals, assign tasks to your kids. Instill a sense of activity in your kids, especially after meals and on weekends. This will discourage them from feeling that they have no choice but to watch television all day or remain glued to their gadgets. Or much worse, eat without any control. Make activities fun by purchasing options for game consoles that require physical activities. You can all dance together or enjoy a virtual tennis match to promote movement.
- Control the kind of food that enter your home.
Be the key to making healthier choices at the grocery. Look at nutritional labels together and let family members compare their usual choices with healthier options. Have prior conversations with your kids on just how much sugar sweetened beverages contain. Make healthy snacks available anytime – like crackers, raw vegetable snacks, and non-fat milk. Even the type of food you have delivered can influence your children. Make them aware of establishments that offer healthier options, like who can deliver grilled instead of fried chicken, for example.