Tips for Grandparents
Getting Grandchildren off to a Healthy Start
Grandparents play an integral role in the health and well-being of their grandchildren. Loving grandchildren is the easy part. Sometimes the hard part is making sure that grandchildren are given the right messages regarding food and physical activity.
The Parents' Jury have compiled information on a number of topics so that you can help your grandchildren to make healthy lifestyle decisions.
On this page:The BasicsFoodPhysical ActivityLeading by ExampleThe Good Old Days and the Way ForwardWhere can I go for advice?Do you have something to say?
Research shows that nearly one out of every four Australian children is overweight or obese. This epidemic clearly needs to be halted and reversed if our grandchildren are going to grow up to be employable and healthy adults.
The cost of obesity to the community is enormous, and so is the personal cost to the child who is too heavy to safely participate in exercise, or fit into age-appropriate clothing. Imagine the sadness and isolation of the overweight child who cannot keep up with fitter and healthier peers.
There's also a trend whereby parents and grandparents of overweight children brush off reality. Good practice is not to ignore the issue of weight, but to be honest about it, and make lifestyle changes to address it.
- be honest about your grandchildren's weight
- keep up to date with food and activity requirements for Australian children
- give you grandchildren healthy foods from the beginning and it will be become a habit
- keep fresh food handy
- incorporate some physical activity into your day
- get in touch with your GP or a dietitian for advice
- support your children in developing good food and activity habits in their children
We are lucky to have access to abundant fresh food in Australia. Good food is good fuel for children and eating well helps them develop properly and function in school, at home and out in the community.
- you're allowed to say ‘no' when your grandchildren ask for junk food
- practice what you preach - don't be hypocritical with your food choices
- make shopping for fresh food fun by playing counting and spelling games
- limit food and drinks that are high in fat, salt and sugar
- mention how energetic you feel after eating a healthy meal
- replace fish and chips with homemade sandwiches using a sandwich maker - kids love to participate
- swap soft drinks for water - their teeth will thank you too!
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If your grandchildren are often in your care it is really important that they get some physical exercise when they are with you.
- limit the time spent watching television or playing computer games
- make exercise fun not a chore
- incorporate exercise into everyday activities
- chat with your grandchildren and exercise with them to make it fun
- being active can include play-acting, cooking, art and craft and gardening
- take sport equipment to the park and on outings
- don't bribe your grandchildren into doing exercise
Leading by Example
Children are excellent imitators and by nature copy what they see around them. That's why it's important that grandparents are positive role models with their food choices and their physical activity schedules.
If grandchildren see that their grandparents are eating sensible portions of healthy food, they will do the same. If they see you walking to the shops instead of driving, walking the dog regularly and going off to golf or tennis with a spring in your step, they are much more likely to be fit and healthy children.
Similarly, when giving your grandchildren food ‘treats' consider if it really is a ‘treat'. One could argue that giving young children bags of chips that are high in salt and fat, and lollies that have an enormous amount of sugar, isn't really giving them a treat at all. The occasional serve of junk food is acceptable but regular servings of junk food are dangerous and not at all helpful in assisting your grandchildren to function properly at school or at home.
- eat and drink sensibly
- get regular exercise
- don't give mixed or negative messages about food
- show consistency when being healthy with your grandchildren
- make meal times a screen-free time
- be careful about giving food as a reward or as a display of love
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The Good Old Days and the Way Forward
In many ways, the good old days of children's nutrition and physical activities were indeed good. Children ate reasonable amounts of mostly fresh food and there were plenty of opportunities for incidental exercise as part of a normal day.
These days, exercise is more structured and there's abundant packaged food in the shops. Sometimes more choice creates more confusion. However, knowledge and information about healthy food choices for children have improved over time. We now have nutritional labelling on processed food and government intervention into food manufacturing and marketing. All of these changes are designed to improve the well-being of Australian children.
- your healthy efforts with your grandchildren will pay off enormously in the long run
- when making food and activity changes it's fine to start off small and build up gradually
- there is no substitute for fresh food - supplements and vitamins are not advisable for children
- children need support, acceptance and encouragement regarding food and activity
- eat at the same time as your grandchildren and make it a happy social occasion
- if you're having trouble getting started, use lists or a timetable to motivate you
- once you get started, keep a diary of your achievements and feel proud of them
Where can I go for advice?
If you'd like to learn more about contributing to the health of your grandchildren the following websites provide great general advice.
For more specific advice, you may choose to visit your local community health centre.
Pedestrian Council of Australia
Healthy Living, Better Health
Raising Children Network
Building a Healthy, Active Australia
Do you have something to say?
The Parents' Jury is a web-based group of parents, grandparents and carers of children under the age of 18.
Our specific areas of interest are: children's nutrition, healthy schools, food marketing to children, physical activity, and healthy supermarket checkouts.
If you have something to say on any of these topics we'd love you to contribute to our facebook page.
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