At Green Olive, we are passionate about health and wellbeing, so we thought we’d write about some simple but often-forgotten aspects of children’s health! In this blog, we’ll give you some tips and tricks on how to get your kids eating healthier, exercising more and spending less time on screens! We hope you’ll learn something that you can use in your own family’s life.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that for kids to grow, develop and live healthy lives, they should eat a range of different foods from each of these five food groups: vegetables, fruit, grains, lean meats, and dairy, with emphasis on the fruit and vegetables groups making up the main component of children's’ diets. Despite these recommendations, the Australian Institue of Health and Welfare has found that only 2.5% of children aged 5–14 and 3.3% of people aged 15–24 eat enough fruit and vegetables. So how can we get our kids to eat more of these healthy foods? There is a growing body of evidence showing us that the key to getting kids to eat more fruit and vegetables is to involve them in the process of growing, harvesting and cooking these foods. One study found that after participating in an after school gardening program, there was a significantly larger number of children reporting that they ate vegetables everyday than there was before the gardening program. Another study found that there was a reported increased snacking preference for fruits and vegetables among kids after participating in gardening programs at school. Planting and looking after their own fruit and vegetable plants can give children a sense of pride and confidence and can also be a fun and stimulating activity that encourages them to have a bigger part in making choices about their food and eating habits.
In the age of technology, we’re seeing kids becoming less and less active, with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimating that 80% of children aged 5-17 don’t meet the daily requirements for physical activity and a 2011-12 National Health Survey finding that two thirds of 5-17 year olds were on screens for more than the recommended 2 hours a day. The WHO recommends that children do 60 minutes of moderate—vigorous activity (activities that make them sweat and out of breath) per day. Some of the benefits of physical activity include:
- reduced risk of obesity
- reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
- strong muscles and bones
- better heart health
- better coordination
- reduced risk of mental health issues
It’s important to make sure that kids are given the opportunity to be active so it may be useful to implement a certain time each day for physical activity. Parents could create a routine of walking through the park on the way home from school or playing in playgrounds near their home each morning, etc. Parents could also sign their kids up to a competitive sports team like basketball or netball which would allow kids to do some vigorous exercise, make friends and learn values like cooperation and teamwork. At Green Olive, we are passionate about allowing kids to be active and escape the screens as much as possible, so we recently built a playground for kids who visit the farm. We also have a trampoline and a lot of open space for kids to run around in while the big kids have a coffee or a glass of wine!
A less talked about but extremely important aspect of kids health is exposure to nature. There is a fast-growing number of studies showing how important it is for children to be out of a structured, screen-driven lifestyle and into natural environments. Here are some of the benefits of children spending more time in nature:
- stronger immune system from contact with dirt, sand, mud, etc.
- reduced risk of behavioural disorders, anxiety and depression
- reduced stress levels
- higher levels of creativity and imagination
- reduced symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder
- improved concentration
Despite the well-documented benefits of spending time in nature, one study showed that children spend half as much time playing outside compared to their parents. Another study showed that three quarters of UK children spend less time playing outside than prison inmates. An easy way for parents to allow children to spend enough time playing outside is to combine kids physical activity with nature time. Walking in parks, running around the beach, swimming in lakes during the summer holidays - these are just a few ideas that can will get kids off their screens, moving and enjoying the wonders of nature.
A trip to the farm can encompass all of these aspects of kids health. With lots of healthy kids options on the menu, plenty of opportunities for kids to be active and a big farm space full of trees, animals and fresh air, having a Sunday lunch at Green Olive is an easy way to help improve your child’s health! You can even explore our Kitchen Garden with the kids… can they spot the mint, basil, tomatoes, beetroot, capsicum, spinach, etc! We have also got lots of school holiday activities that get kids out and about so check out our Facebook events for more information: www.facebook.com/greenoliveatredhill/