Written by Team ParentCircle and published on 27 April 2021.
In a thought-provoking letter, the actor and fitness expert asks parents to make healthier food choices for their children and inculcate the habit of fitness
In today's fast-paced world, let us take a moment to think about ourselves — our health, lifestyle and our choices. Being an accountable parent, it's my foremost responsibility to care for my child's well-being. It's vital for me as a parent to instill in my little toddler the importance of staying fit, hale and hearty. My core duty is to make him understand the numerous benefits he'll enjoy in the long run by staying healthy. As parents, you should take note of this during your child's formative years.
Ever since my childhood, fitness has been an integral part of my life. I've played volleyball from my school days and represented the Mumbai zone about five times. I've also actively been involved in sports like karate and taekwondo. Although I grew up being a little chubby, I still managed to stay fit.
Like most expecting and new mothers, I gained a few kilos after I delivered my baby, Viaan. But, thankfully, I managed to shed those extra unwanted kilos in the most natural way — lots of yoga, a balanced diet, and a rigorous, unceasing fitness regime. My nutritionist, Luke Coutinho, who consulted for my son too, has witnessed my weight loss journey. My sole advice to all the to-be and new mommies out there is to consult a nutritionist not just during your pregnancy but also after that. Staying fit post-pregnancy should be your highest priority. Getting appropriate information about the right diet you need after delivery will nurture your journey towards motherhood and help you provide appropriate nutrition to your child as well.
After my son Viaan was born, I took fitness even more seriously. I started practicing yoga. We mommies need to stay fit and healthy. Concerning my son, I'm a very hands-on mom. I prefer doing activities with him rather than forcing him or preaching about a healthy lifestyle. On one of his birthdays, we baked a cake together from scratch. Involving children in cooking and baking helps them learn about the right way of preparing food and the concept of nutrition. When children are involved in making food, they are interested in trying it out. This helps them make healthier choices on their own without you having to force them to do so. Once you inculcate these habits, it will with your child for a lifetime.
Children need the right kind of food and atmosphere at home to multitask. They have to go to school, complete assignments, write examinations, and take part in several extracurricular activities. The pressure on them increases with each passing year. So, give your child a nutritious diet. I make it a point that Viaan drinks a glass of buffalo milk instead of cow's milk since it is richer in calcium and iron. A healthy breakfast forms an integral part of your munchkin's diet. As a mother, you need to ensure you are in no way compromising on this healthy start.
Opting for local foods is way healthier than you think. All you need to do is adopt the right cooking process. Aerated drinks and junk food are monster edibles when it comes to children; fresh fruits and healthy snacks can be great substitutes. According to Luke, who is a holistic nutritionist, if your child is addicted to munching on junk food just because he or she can't get over the taste, parents need to comprehend the long-term health jeopardies involved. Consumption of junk food for a prolonged period can result in obesity and harm the child's maturing digestive system permanently. Unhealthy eating habits need to be controlled in children early in life to avoid future health risks. Parents should smartly replace the much-loved fries with healthy tapioca fries; oily chips can be swapped with soya chips, and aerated drinks can be replaced with lime juice. Once your tiny tot learns to treasure the importance of fitness, he will never go back to eating junk food ever again! Let your child get the rest he needs — a minimum of seven to eight hours of sleep at night.
You, as a parent, will play a fundamental role in teaching your child how to lead a disciplined life. Since children look up to parents as their biggest role models, parents themselves need to imbibe healthy living for children to follow suit. Set an example through your healthy eating habits and other lifestyle choices. Educate yourself before you make these changes. This is not a one-year or two-year commitment, it's a lifelong one. Always remember, you need to provide your child with the tools that will support her in her journey to a fit lifestyle.
Lastly, here's a message to my dear children. Go out and play! Switch off the television, step out and breathe in some fresh air. Playing outside helps you stay fit and healthy, and gives you a lot of energy to do everything you like. Sitting in front of the television will do you no good, it just drains your valuable energy. So, dear children, now is the time for you to make the right choice. Eat well and adopt a healthier lifestyle. You are the future of our country. Take care of yourself, be fit and healthy today to be the best you can tomorrow!
Shilpa Shetty Kundra
Hall of Fame