There is a lot of talk about health and wellness these days, especially with the growing problem of childhood obesity. Obesity can lead to early onset of chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension. Children who are obese are more likely to be overweight as adults. This is why it’s important that families make healthy food choices and engage in regular physical activity to prevent chronic conditions that can have debilitating consequences.
Families can begin the journey toward better health by eating more fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, antioxidants, fiber and minerals that help the body fight off diseases and prevent inflammation, which is associated with some autoimmune diseases and other health problems.
Adults and older children should try to eat at least 2 to 3 cups of vegetables each day and around 2 cups of fruit. Most school-age children benefit from getting 2 cups of vegetables and 1 to 2 cups of fruit, and preschoolers should eat 1 1/2 cups of vegetables and 1 cup of fruit daily.
In addition to fruits and vegetables, lean protein is also a healthy choice. Chicken, fish, other lean meats and plant-based proteins such as beans, nuts and soy are good choices. Low-fat dairy products provide bone-building calcium. However, for those who may not be able to tolerate dairy foods, there are other sources of calcium. Almonds, tofu, kale and spinach are good non-dairy calcium food sources. Whole grains provide energy and fiber that can help lower cholesterol. Fiber from whole grains can prevent overeating because it helps one feel full.
Physical activity is very helpful in maintaining good health. Walking, playing outside and doing yard work are all activities that families can enjoy together. Regular physical activity can strengthen bones and joints, burn calories and build lean muscle mass. Lean muscle mass burns fat even when a body is at rest. Another benefit of physical activity is that it helps reduce stress.
Families should also recognize the importance of a good night’s sleep. Sleep is vital to health. Inadequate sleep is associated with all types of conditions, including diabetes and heart disease. Most people need at least eight hours of sleep each night to stay healthy and function in an alert and safe manner.
In addition to living healthy lifestyles, there are those families who plan ahead for diseases that might need special treatment. For example, some parents recognize that stems cells may hold the key to treating certain conditions. They plan to bank their babies’ cord blood so that if needed, it may be used to treat a chronic condition or an autoimmune disorder later on. This is a logical step since stem cell research shows promise in curing some diseases.
Making the decision to live well and plan for long-term health outcomes takes commitment and work. However, the returns on the investment include savings on healthcare costs and a longer life. For many families, it may result in certain chronic diseases being delayed or prevented altogether.