The Current State of our Nation’s Children

kids-playing

I remember when I was a kid growing up, my parents would always try to force me to eat my veggies. I never seemed to enjoy carrots and peas but I didn’t mind broccoli and cauliflower. When I had a plate of peas in front of me I remember I used to flick them at my older brother as a way to avoid eating them. Funny thing is that when I was also younger I liked fruit but never ate the fruit my mum gave me in my lunchbox. I would always get home and my mum would get angry at me for not eating my banana or apple. I’m pretty sure there was multiple occasions where both my brother and I had weeks old fruit in the bottom of our school bags because we didn’t want to eat them.

Nowadays I know the benefits of eating healthy and maintaining a balanced diet. Personally, I enjoy living a healthy lifestyle of balancing exercise, a clear mind and a clean diet. With all my meals I’ll have at least one serving of veggies (including broccoli, spinach or carrot) and I’ll eat at least one piece of fruit each day.

Sadly, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that during 2011-2012, 95% of individuals between the ages of 18-24 had an inadequate intake of vegetables and roughly 60% of individuals in the same age range had an inadequate intake of fruit.

fruit and veggies
Inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption, by age, 2011-12

It’s worrying to see that individuals in my generation are unable to understand the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables. I see myself as one of the lucky few because since growing up I’ve done my own research and educated myself on the health benefits of maintaining a healthy diet.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I believe there’s a problem with the way we communicate to children about why they should eat their fruits and veggies. Just like my parents, I think a lot of Australian parents are forcing their kids to eat their peas on their plate or the banana in their lunchbox. I mean yes, it’s hard to educate a child that carrots contain Vitamin A which is good for their eyesight or that bananas contain potassium which is beneficial to regulating bodily fluids.

That’s a reason why I’m so passionate about what we’re doing with Living Books. We want to allow kids to discover and learn why plants and veggies are so good for us. I want them to have fun whilst doing it and I want their parents to know that their kids are being taught an extremely valuable life lesson.

According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, the current recommended daily intakes for boys and girls 9-11 years old is 5 servings of veggies per day and 2 servings of fruit each day.

daily intake
Recommended average number of standard serves per day

In hindsight it isn’t that much and when you know how easy it is to incorporate veggies into a meal or make a healthy fruit salad, then reaching the daily intake is simple as pie (might also taste even better!).

Similarly, the Australian Department of Health recommend that children between the ages of 5-12 years should be accumulating at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity every day. I don’t have a younger sibling so I wouldn’t know first-hand of the differences of growing up in today’s culture but I can certainly distinguish the difference from when I grew up. Honestly, I believe it’s worrying.

695192-overweight-child-eating-junk-food-on-couch-in-front-of-tv
There is an increasing proportion of kids choosing to stay inside instead of being active on a daily basis

I remember in 2008 when I was in year 7 at high school, we were playing footy, 40-40, tiggy and 4-square every opportunity we could. By the time I was in year 12 in 2013 I walked around the junior school yard only to be surprised with the proportion of year 7’s sitting on benches playing games on their iPads or phones. Now, I have nothing against technology, in fact, I embrace everything new with technology. It’s just that I don’t think kids and our culture understand the underlying problem with kids’ screen-time with personal devices.

Furthermore, the Australian government suggest that use of electronic media for entertainment should be limited to less than 2 hours per day. When you start counting how many hours that portable devices is integrated into the Australian curriculum it really doesn’t leave a lot of free screen time for kids to play games when at home.

Luckily, we live in a proactive nation and our government have given us some helpful tips on how parents can increase physical activity for kids whilst limiting their sedentary behaviours:

suggestions
Ideas and ways for children to be physically active and to limit sedentary behaviour every day.

If you’re interested to read the full document check it out here.

One of the ideas that I love is that they mentioned that “children can help with gardening activities like digging, sweeping or raking”. Just like when I enjoyed helping my dad gardening in my backyard when I was a kid, the Australian government are encouraging families to do the same.

There’s definitely a satisfaction that comes with completing a task especially when it’s cleaning a garden to make it look beautiful, I don’t think you could see a bigger smile on a child’s face.

With Living Books, we want to introduce some of those early activities of digging, planting and watering plants. It’ll help them establish goals and you can watch them before your eyes grow up to be Australian children that are passionate and dedicated to a healthier future.

If you’re keen on hearing more about the program, let us know and we’ll get in touch with you.

– Nigel

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