10 tips to ensure Healthy Body Composition in Children and Adolescents

As the country celebrates its 67th year as a republic, we are faced with a strange dilemma. On one hand, the country continues to grapple with malnutrition in certain parts, visiting an urban school or college paints a different picture. High body fat among children and teenagers, and in some cases, even obesity.

This high body fat – the unhealthiest tissue of the body goes hand in hand with very less muscle mass – the healthiest tissue of the body.

This is what dieticians call as ‘lean obesity’ which looms over Indian children. It is a matter of utmost concern as this high body fat is the beginning of an inflammatory environment in the body, which is the root cause of early onset of non-communicable diseases – pre-diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, polycystic ovarian disease, bone disorders and the list goes on…

What can be done?

Watching what they eat is the first step to addressing this issue. If we know our everyday foods, the quantity, and frequency of consumption, we can work towards reversing this issue. Here are the top ten tips to keep in mind

  1. Do not skip breakfast: Plan wholesome, nutrient dense and convenient options. Ideal Combination includes A source of good quality protein (egg whites/low fat milk or yoghurt/chicken/tofu/low fat cottage cheese) with one to two servings of whole grain cereal base coupled with dietary fiber (stuffed roti/ thepla/ bran bread sandwich / muesli / oats/ whole grain flakes). Research shows that breakfast skippers have high body fat.
  2. Snack smart through the day: Good quality fats through handful of nuts in your diet brings the right balance of fatty acids like Omega-3 and MUFA in your diet (mainly from invisible fats) which favour the synthesis of protective prostaglandins or biochemical regulators which are non-inflammatory. You can replace your refined carbs based snacks with two ounces (56 g) of almonds or a combination of almonds, walnuts, cashew and pistachio. Healthy snacks build mucles and keep body fat low.
  3. Use whole fruit as a snacking option: A minimum of two to three seasonal coloured fruits – medium size – is a good consideration. You create a good gut environment by the soluble and insoluble fibre in fruits, besides the antioxidants. Based on antioxidant potential, fruits that are highly rated include guava, pomegranate, apple, pear, and citrus fruits. High fibre intake lowers body fat.
  4. Say NO to refined starches and trans fats: Which come from khari, ghutli, naan, pav, biscuits, roomali roti, burgers, pizza, rolls, doughnuts, pastries,etc. These should only be ‘some time’ foods in rationed amounts. Research shows that children consuming higher quantities of refined starches and trans fats have higher body fat. Higher intake of refined carbohydrate and restaurant food is associated with increase in body fat.
  5. Say NO to empty calories: especially cola drinks & other carbonated beverages. Good beverage choices include butter milk, coconut water, citrus juices, amla juice, fresh lime soda etc. Empty calories increase body fat.
  6. Add seasonal vegetables: all seasonal leafy vegetables, & other vegetables especially cruciferous, coloured vegetables, variety of beans etc. Make salad an inherent part of your meals. Regular intake of salads with vegetables is related to lower body fat. Be careful of hygiene and sanitation. A light heat treatment to vegetables especially in the rainy season may be advisable. High fibre intake lowers body fat
  7. Get One Hour of Physical activity every day: Aerobic play, dance, 10,000 steps and resistance exercise – calisthenics, yoga, or martial arts, taekwondo, capoeira. Regular physical activity decreases body fat. 
  8. Get atleast 6-8 hours of sleep every day: Research shows lack of sleep favours accumulation of body fat. Adequate sleep decreases body fat.
  9. Prioritize consuming lots of fluids in a day preferably through a conscious increase in water intake (12 glasses /day).
  10. Do a good deed every day and keep the smile on your face! Destressing lowers body fat.

Picture: Ronakshah1990

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