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Best Yoga & Eating Habits For Children That Will Help in Long Term Health

Children require optimum nutrition and physical activity during their growing years and the dietary requirements of children keep changing as they grow. Children spend their time playing around but this can be transformed into a healthier and more wholesome practice by making children practice yoga at a young age. It can bring surprising benefits and changes in their personality. This article explains the need for healthy eating and yoga for children of all ages. General as well as specific tips have been given on diet and yoga recommended for children.
Best Yoga For Children

Introduction

Children need proper nutrition and routine but they can’t be forced to follow it. The diet and routine they are following now is going to affect their body, its structure and function, and their health throughout their lives. Their bodies will stop growing in their early twenties and then there will be little scope for making the deepest levels of their body i.e. cells and tissues healthier and stronger. Children may not understand it now because they may want to eat what their classmates or friends at play school are eating. They can easily be influenced by ads on the TV and be attracted to chocolates, cookies and milk additives. It is our duty as parents and also collectively as a society that we instill healthy routine and eating habits in children by making sure they understand its importance, and not imposing our thoughts and understanding on the kids.

Importance of Healthy Eating For Children

A healthy and balanced diet ensures that the children will get all the nutrients required by their bodies for growth and development, in the required amounts. Children may get nutritional deficiencies very easily because their bodies consume nutrients very fast, especially from ages 1-18. Any normal diet we eat and give to our children may easily fulfill the requirement of macronutrients i.e. carbohydrates, fats, protein and fiber, but it becomes tricky to include and balance all required micronutrients i.e. vitamins and minerals. Children are in utter need of micronutrients because specific vitamins and minerals are required by the body in the development of all systems.

Special Requirements of Babies, Infants & Toddlers (0-4 years)

  • Vitamin D and calcium are required for proper growth of the muscular and skeletal systems. The musculoskeletal systems form a major part of the body and house other organs and organ systems in place. Musculoskeletal growth entirely depends on proper intake of vitamin D and calcium. Vitamin D is extremely important for the development of normal immune function in children.
  • Iron is important for the whole body because its presence in the red blood cells is responsible for proper circulation of oxygen and nutrients in the body. Oxygen is required by every cell of the body for carrying out metabolism at cellular level. Iron is responsible for the development of cognitive function in the brain.
  • DHA or docosa hexaenoic acid is an extremely important fatty acid of the form omega -3 for growth of brain, understanding and communication in children. It is important for fetal brain development; therefore it is recommended for pregnant women and young kids.

Special Requirements of Children & Pre-Teens (5-12 years)

The age of 5 to 12 is extremely crucial for the growth and development of children both physically and mentally. During this time they learn how to behave at different places and how to express themselves in front of a few people.

  • Protein is required by kids and pre-teens in moderate amounts for metabolism, growth, better immunity, proper circulation of water, nutrients and oxygen, and waste removal. Children can get enough protein from milk, vegetables, beans and lentils.
  • Good quality carbohydrates are required by children and pre teens so that they are provided with enough energy to study, play, talk, etc. Instead of sugar, pasta, cake etc., the carbohydrates in your child’s diet should come from potatoes, mangoes, bananas, whole grain cereals and rice.
  • Good quality fats are required by children, meaning that fats that come from milk, butter, coconut, nuts and seeds, avocados, yogurt, cheese, etc.
  • Iron and folate, necessary for blood health and brain function, should be consumed in enough quantities by children. Iron and Folate can be found in whole grains, lentils and pulses, vegetables such as spinach, kale and asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and some fortified foods.
  • Enough fiber should be given to children because it encourages proper elimination of bowels and wastes. Children are developing toilet habits in the age 3-5, and they should be able to feel their poop properly.
  • Vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K are required by children for proper development of the eyes, the skin, the teeth, gums and bones. All vitamins can be eaten by eating enough mixed portions of frets and vegetables.

Special Requirements of Teens (13-18 years)

  • Teens are now changing hormonally and physically at a fast rate at this time. They actually need more elaborate macronutrients so that their physical growth is not compromised or hindered.
  • Teens require more protein than they ever ate earlier. Protein builds muscles. Do not assume that muscles are only the biceps and triceps, actually all organs are made of some or the other kind of muscles. Good quality protein is required which has all the amino acids in them, such as lean meats, soy products such as tofu, edamame, soy milk and tempeh, nuts and nut butters, and eggs.
  • Teens require more energy-giving foods. Carbohydrates that come from whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat, beans, pulses and fruits, are required and should be eaten instead of refined grain products such as noodles, breads, pasta, cakes and cookies.
  • Calcium rich foods are essential for teens because they are now growing in height and this will stay in their body forever. Good sources of calcium are low fat dairy products and plant based milks.
  • Teens should stay away from fried and highly processed foods because that’s what they want to eat and it is not good for their body, because these foods are high in calorific value but low in nutrition. They also have additives, preservatives and artificial flavors which are extremely bad for growth and development.
  • Fruits and vegetables should be consumed daily to fulfill the need of vitamins and minerals and also to cut back on sodas, processed juices and desserts.
  • Do not restrict teens from hanging out with friends or eating out, or consuming alcohol. Rather, explain to them what effect these activities have on their health.

Benefits of Yoga for Children (of all ages)

Yoga has many components that can be used as an exercise as well as for therapeutic purposes. On that behalf, different yoga practices are recommended for different individuals; yoga is beneficial for everyone. But it can be especially beneficial for children and teens, let us understand how.

  • Yoga develops love, compassion, empathy, truthfulness, cleanliness and thankfulness in children.
  • Yoga makes children learn self discipline.
  • It makes children less likely to pick up fights and hurt other kids.
  • Yoga postures develop balance. The child learns to balance its body in various poses, and feels like having accomplished a skill.
  • Coordination between various body parts is established and improved with regular yoga practice.
  • Learning yoga under yoga therapists can help children with disabilities.
  • Yoga improves a child's focus, attention and concentration.
  • Yoga provides similar benefits as dance, martial arts and aerobics in children.
  • Yoga makes children aware of proper breathing.
  • Children who practice yoga are more confident than those who don’t.
  • Yoga helps children learn about and observe their body closely.
  • Yoga establishes a deeper connection between mental and physical processes of the child.
  • Children with special needs can benefit greatly from yoga.
  • Children who start practicing yoga at a young age are less likely to be depressed or stressed in future.
  • Yoga practice can prevent development of diseases in children, even those with a family history of certain diseases.
  • Yoga establishes a greater and deeper relation between parents and children.

Yoga For Children

Surya Namaskara is such an exercise that is a complete package and suitable for everyone except for people with multiple conditions. It can make children more energetic and strong. No other exercises are required or recommended for children.

Yoga For Teens

Teens should do physical activities for more than an hour every day. These exercises should be such that they promote healthy growth instead of just reducing body mass. Besides yoga, teens should also join swimming, cycling, running, playing team sports like basketball, cricket and football, etc. In addition to Surya Namaskara, teens can benefit the most from a series of Tadasana, tiryaka Tadasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Marjari Asana, Dhanurasana and Setu Bandhasana.

How To Develop These Habits in Children

It can be difficult to develop healthy eating habits in children. Children think that parents are just taking away their favorite foods from them, or are just asking them to do yoga because they have the authority over them. Children may not suddenly understand the importance of a healthy, balanced diet, such as a home cooked meal. However, the following tips may be beneficial in developing healthy lifestyle habits in children:

  1. Practice yourself. If you only tell your family to practice yoga or eat healthy, while you don’t do so, it is impossible that they will develop healthy habits.
  2. Eat and cook together as a family.
  3. Practice yoga together.
  4. Involve your child’s friends in yoga sessions.
  5. Give your children healthy snacks as part of these yoga sessions.
  6. Avoid distractions of the TV or the movies during meal times.
  7. Do not punish children if they don’t listen to you.
  8. Ask your child’s school for help. Sometimes children listen to their teachers while they may not listen to you.
  9. Give your child cool accessories for joining yoga.
  10. Educate your child about how poor eating and lack of activity can affect their health.
  11. Do not argue with your children about their habits. Rather, teach them acceptance and responsibility.
  12. Tell your children that their body is their responsibility and it's upto them to take care of it and maintain it.

Conclusion

We learn the importance of healthy eating and Yoga after we become adults and have developed some symptoms of physical weaknesses or some diseases that have developed due to our poor diet and lifestyle especially when we were teens. It isn’t easy to control what and how teens eat and do but healthy eating and love for yoga can be developed in them from a young age. It is recommended that children be gradually made interested and involved in a healthy lifestyle consisting of wholesome foods and yoga.
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Best Ayurvedic Doctor in Mohali - Dr. Vikram Chauhan

Dr. Vikram Chauhan

MD (AYURVEDA)

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