Early childhood is a critical time to establish healthy lifestyle practices and parents are important role models during this period. As children get older, it becomes more difficult to change unhealthy habits. Therefore introducing healthy practices early in life is very important.However, recent statistics show that unhealthy practices are quite common in young children.
The majority of children in this age group eat more saturated fat and sugar than recommended and ¾ of young children don’t eat enough vegetables. It has also been reported that over ¼ of preschool-aged children are not active enough and ¾ exceed the recommended limit for screen-time.The University of Wollongong Early Start Research Institute have launched a new online healthy lifestyle program for parents of preschool-aged children.
The program is the first of its kind and provides parents with the information, guidance and support that they need to make positive changes to their family’s lifestyle. Often parents have access to healthy lifestyle information, but determining which information is reputable can sometimes be difficult. The challenge for busy parents is also putting it into practice. This program aims to bridge that gap.
Megan Hammersley, a PhD student and Accredited Practising Dietitian is running the study, which was previously trialled with a small number of parents and was found to be helpful and practical. It resulted in increased parental knowledge regarding healthy eating and physical activity and by the end of the program, there was also a reduction in the percentage of children who were overweight.
The success of the small trial has now led to a much larger study to fully test the effectiveness of the program.The study commenced in February 2016, with over 20 families participating so far. The study will continue throughout this year and is anticipated that around 160 parents will take part during this time. Being an online program means that it can be completed at a time that is suitable for the participants.
The program focuses on the areas of healthy eating, physical activity, screen time and sleep and runs for 11 weeks.