The issue of excessive weight gain is not only a growing problem of adults. In today’s world, sedentary lifestyles have become increasingly common even in the young. Instead of being in playgrounds or other activity areas, children mostly stay at home with their computers and tablets. The influx of Western and instant cuisine also play a role in the diet of children. Families are more likely seen eating in fast foods during weekends and holidays rather than enjoying home cooked meals.
With the changing lifestyle patterns also comes the increasing incidence of chronic illness such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Now, it is not uncommon to see many young people suffering from these illnesses as well.
The position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is that interventions be made as early as the pre-school and school age so as to prevent the onset of chronic illnesses. This may be achieved with awareness of healthy eating practices and maintaining healthy weights for kids.
MyPlate is a visual guide originally made by the US Department of Agriculture to remind families on how much of which should be present in the feeding plates of children. A similar device has been adapted for Filipinos to make it applicable in the local setting and is named “Pinggang Pinoy“.
In the plate graphic, half of the plate should comprise vegetables and fruits during meals. Vegetables comprises a majority of this portion. Children are encouraged to eat more dark-green, red and orange vegetables. The greater in the variation and contrast in colors can also aid in attracting kids in eating vegetables.
Fruits make up the other portion of the first half in MyPlate. Pears, oranges, berries, watermelon, peaches and raisins are some examples that can be served on to the plates of kids. Fruit juices may also substitute during occasions but only if 100% juice is served (and not juice concentrate which contains mostly table sugar).
A quarter of the plate should comprise healthy proteins. Recommended are healthier sources such as fish, beans and peas.
The last quarter of the plate should be filled up with grains – preferably whole grains. As such, kids are encouraged to eat oatmeal, whole-wheat breads, tortillas or brown rice more often.
To supplement their meals, children are also encouraged to take dairy in their meals. This may come in the form of low-fat milk, cheese, or yogurt for stronger teeth and bones.
Exercise should come in the form of play or any suitable physical activity for at least 60 minutes daily.
The way for people to adapt to healthy lifestyles that persist is to imbibe them early. Encouraging healthy eating using MyPlate or Pinggang Pinoy is one strategy that may help ensure this.
Ogata, B. N and Hayes D. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Nutrition Guidance for Health Children Ages 2 to 11 Years. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2014-08-01, Volume 114, Issue 8, Pages 1257-1276