Grandparents can help their grandchildren lead healthy lives

Grandparents can help grandchildren have a healthy start

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.

  • Good practices:
  • Help your children to develop good food and activity habits in your grandchildren
  • Give your grandchildren healthy foods from the beginning and it will be become a habit 
  • Keep fresh food handy when they visit 
  • Incorporate some physical activity into your day and include the children when they visit
  • Be honest about your grandchild’s weight 
  • Get in touch with your GP or a dietitian for advice if you are worried. 

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.

Feeding your grandchildren

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.

Good practices:

  • 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
  • Llimit food and drinks that are high in fat, salt and sugar 
  • Talk about how energetic and good you feel after eating a healthy meal 
  • Replace fish and chips with homemade baked wedges (get the kids to help scrub and cut the potatoes) and fish they or sandwiches using a sandwich maker - kids love to participate 
  • Swap soft drinks for water – children’s teeth will thank you too!

Physical activity with grandchildren

If you often look after your grandchildren, it is really important they get some physical exercise when they are with you.

Good practices:

  • Limit the time spent watching television or playing computer games to one hour per day or less
  • Make exercise fun not a chore 
  • Incorporate exercise into everyday activities 
  • Chat with your grandchildren and exercise with them to make it fun 
  • Include play-acting, cooking, art and craft and gardening 
  • Take sports equipment to the park and on outings
  • But don't bribe your grandchildren into doing exercise.

Be a good role model

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.

Good practices:

  • Eat and drink sensibly 
  • Take regular exercise together
  • Don't give mixed or negative messages about food 
  • Be consistent
  • Make meal times a screen-free time 
  • Be careful about giving food as a reward or as a display of love.

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. All of these changes are designed to improve the well-being of New Zealand children.

Good practices:

  • start off small and build up gradually when making food and activity changes 
  • provide fresh food - supplements and vitamins are not advisable for children 
  • give children support, acceptance and encouragement regarding food and activity 
  • eat at the same time as your grandchildren and make it a happy social occasion 
  • use lists or a timetable to motivate you if you're having trouble getting started 
  • keep a diary of your achievements and feel proud of them.

Your healthy efforts with your grandchildren will pay off enormously in the long run.

Do you have other tips to help grandchildren lead healthy lives?

If you have a great idea for helping grandchildren lead healthy lives, email us at parentsvoice@rocketmail.com and we'll include it on our website.

Helpful websites for grandparents

These websites have great advice on contributing to your grandchildren’s health: