Healthy eating and being active go hand-in-hand in a healthy lifestyle. And for children, who often learn from those around them, modelling good eating and exercise habits can go a long way towards building a healthy way of life.
The Dietitians of Canada raised an alarm bell recently when a national study of 2,000 adults showed that many people didn’t eat enough from all four food groups. In fact, a significant number hadn’t eaten a fruit or vegetable, or consumed a milk product at all the day prior to taking the survey.
Children between 4-9 years of age need up to six servings of fruits and vegetables each day, 4-6 servings of grain products, 2-4 servings of milk and alternatives and 1-2 servings of meat. Canada’s Food Guide recommends that very active children choose extra servings from the four food groups.
Food labels can help monitor the amount of fat, sugar and salt content of foods. Busy lifestyles can lead to eating more prepared and packaged foods but watch out for sodium content in processed foods and meals made outside the home.
To help encourage children and youth to be active, 2010 Legacies Now launched SportFit, an online sport discovery program that is both fun and a great source of information. For communities and schools that want to engage children and youth in events leading up to the 2010 Winter Games, the SportFit Challenge is a ready-to-use tool.
The SportFit Challenge consists of eight, non-competitive activity stations that measure various physical abilities. Once completed, participants register online at www.SportFitCanada.com, take a short survey about their personal preferences and enter their activity station results. The online SportFit program reviews their data and generates a personal certificate which recommends three winter and three summer sports that may suit their abilities and interests.
Computer-savvy children can visit the resources on SportFit to learn about sports, including the history of Olympic and Paralympic sports, and connect to clubs in their neighbourhoods.
Getting youth active is important: according to Statistics Canada, 26 per cent of Canadian children and adolescents are overweight or obese. Even small increases in physical activity can have dramatic effects on children’s health, and some research has shown a link between regular physical activity and improved grades.
For more information on setting up a SportFit Challenge in your community centre or school, visit www.SportFitCanada.com/community_resources. For more information on the Canada’s Food Guide from Health Canada, visit http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/index-eng.php.