Chief Nutritionist Dr Michelle Ash has said children should be encouraged to play and eat healthily as they return to school.
She said adults should work towards reducing their risk factors to prevent serious infection and death from the covid19 virus.
Speaking at the Health Ministry’s covid19 virtual media briefing on Monday, Ash said for children who have online school, parents should ensure they have regular mealtimes as part of their regular schedules.
“Try not to pick up so many prepackaged snacks. Discourage them from grazing all day.
"There should be a schedule, including work time, play time, and bedtime.
"Take your children into the kitchen with you and show them how to prepare things. This will impart lifelong skills and encourage good nutrition. Plan and prep your meals for the week so you only have to cook a few things.”
She said children should also be encouraged to play outdoors as a form of exercise.
“As places have opened, you can do outdoor activities with your children at least once a week. There are a lot of activities you can do with them to keep them and yourselves active. If you have limited yard space you can get things like skipping ropes to encourage activity. Play with your kids.”
Ash said according to the chronic disease profile of Trinidad and Tobago as researched by PAHO in 2012, fruit and vegetable consumption was less than the five recommended servings, with 91 per cent of people not consuming close to that amount.
She said 36.9 per cent of the population was overweight, and a further 25.7 per cent obese. She said 60.3 per cent of adults had high cholesterol, 20.5 per cent were diabetic, and 20.3 per cent were hypertensive.
Ash said the top causes of death in TT were heart disease, diabetes, cancer and strokes. She urged people to lower their chronic-disease risk factors, which could also contribute to the risk of serious infection and death from covid19.
“You can’t alter your family risk, but you can reduce your risk factors through diet, including reducing stress/comfort eating, exercise and managing stress, quitting smoking and reducing alcohol consumption, and drinking more water.
"You should know your numbers, such as fasting glucose blood sugar level, blood pressure, body fat percentage, lipid profile, etc, as if these numbers are too high you could be at risk for metabolic syndrome.”
She advocated for a healthy diet, with an emphasis on including fruits, vegetables, fibre, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats, as well as fish three times a week. She said people should stop eating and snacking all day long. be more mindful of what they are eating and should read food labels, especially for added sugar and salt.
She said adults should exercise for 30 minutes a day and children for an hour.