Grandparents can play an important role in the health and well-being of grandchildren. Loving your grandchildren is the easy part. Sometimes the hard part is making sure you give grandchildren the right messages regarding food and physical activity.
The Ministry of Health’s ‘Food and Activity Guidelines for Healthy New Zealand Children’ will keep you up to date on food and nutrition advice.
We are lucky to have access to abundant fresh food in New Zealand. 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.
If you often look after your grandchildren, it is really important they get some physical exercise when they are with you.
Children are excellent imitators and 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 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 or walking to the local park, beach or river with a spring in your step, they will try to imitate you.
Similarly, when giving your grandchildren food ‘treats' consider if it really is a ‘treat'. Some people 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 home.
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. All of these changes are designed to improve the well-being of New Zealand children.
Your healthy efforts with your grandchildren will pay off enormously in the long run.
If you have a great idea for helping grandchildren lead healthy lives, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll include it on our website.