Category: Health

Helping kids reach their full potential

Helping kids reach their full potential SSISAWhen I read posts about investing in your children, I usually assume it’s to do with a financial plan for education. However, investing in the future of your children also involves their health and well-being. It doesn’t involve money or savings accounts, but has lifelong effects and the best thing you can do for your child. The Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA) is interested in promoting the health and wellness of all South Africans. One of their new areas of interest is how parents can promote the health of their kid’s – particularly physical activity, screen time and sleep. They share their top three recommendations for parents on helping kids reach their full potential. SSISA would also love to hear your success stories about how you get your kids active, put health boundaries on screen time, and make sure they get enough sleep. If you share your stories, you can also stand a chance to win a membership to their Kids on the Move programme. Entry details below.Helping kids reach their full potential SSISA

Moving more

Physical activity plays a vital role in children’s health and well-being, and has a wide range of benefits for not only their physical health – helping to maintain a healthy weight and reduce risk for diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease – but for their mental health as well. Kids who are more physically active have been shown to have better self-esteem; less stress, anxiety and depression; and improved cognitive and academic outcomes.

Physical activity is not just sport and physical education at school, but includes other activities like walking (for example, to school, or on a family outing) and active play. Research consistently shows that children who spend more time outdoors are more physically active, so whenever possible, encourage kids to be out rather than in. The evidence also shows that children who are more active when they are young stay active through childhood and into adolescence, and often into adulthood as well. So it is important to get kids active early, so they can enjoy the benefits later in life as well.

What is recommended

Children who are of school-going age (6-18 years) should be getting at least 1 hour of physical activity every day in order to realise these benefits. This should include activity that is intense enough to get them to sweat and breathe hard, although activity of a lighter intensity is also good for them if it means less time sitting. Younger children (3-6 years) should be active for at least 3 hours per day, and this can be activity of any intensity.

The lure of the screen

In contrast to the benefits of physical activity, lots of time in front of screens has been shown to have a number of negative consequences for kids, which is a sobering thought in this era of ubiquitous screen-based technology. Research shows that kids who spend more time on screens will be more likely to be overweight, and have unhealthy eating behaviours, such as eating less fruit and vegetables, consuming more fast food and fizzy drinks, and skipping breakfast.

Kids with higher levels of screen time are also more likely to score more poorly in things related to their cognitive development and academic performance, including attention, maths scores, reading and language comprehension. High screen time is also associated with a wide range of unpleasant mental health outcomes amongst children and adolescents: increased anxiety, social dysfunction and depression; low self-esteem; school disconnectedness; unfavourable behavioural conduct; and difficulties connecting with parents and peers.

What is recommended

The general limit for daily screen time is not more than 2 hours per day for school-going children, while some recommend not more than 1 hour for preschool children. For children under 2 years, the advice is no screen time at all. Similar to physical activity, screen time behaviours tend to stick from childhood into adolescence and adults, so limiting these behaviours from an early age is essential.

Getting enough z’s

The importance of sleep for the health and well-being of kids is becoming an increasingly hot topic in research, and has been shown to be associated with healthier weight, better emotional regulation, academic achievement, and improved quality of life for youth. Lack of sleep is particularly detrimental to adolescents, and inadequate sleep in this age group has been linked to higher levels of depression, anxiety and pain; low self-esteem, social support and life satisfaction; decreased academic achievement; a greater chance of engaging in future risky behaviour; as well as attention difficulties, withdrawal, tiredness, and aggression. Screen time is a sleep thief – it not only takes up sleep time, but it also displaces behaviours that help with sleep, such as physical activity, and it exposes kids to artificial light that negatively affects their body’s sleep system.

What is recommended

While there are a number of different recommendations for kids’ sleep, the guidelines are generally around 10-13 hours of sleep per night for 3-6 year olds, 9-11 hours for 6-13 year olds, and 8-10 hours for 14-17 year olds.

All of these health behaviours, along with a healthy diet, help to set kids up for a future in which they are physically and mentally health, emotionally and socially adjusted, and prepared to do well at school.

Sports Science Institute of South Africa

The Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA) would love to hear your success stories about how you get your kids active, put health boundaries on screen time, and make sure they get enough sleep. With your permission, these stories will be included in online material that SSISA is putting together, and may be used on their social media platforms, either with your name, or with a pseudonym.

If you would like your story to be included in a lucky draw, please comment below before Monday, 27 February 2017. Your email address will only be used for the lucky draw, and won’t be used with the story. Up for grabs is a one term membership at the Cape Town SSISA Kidz on the Move programme (2 days per week, 4-5pm Mon-Thurs), valued at R1030, which includes an assessment.

For more information about SSISA, visit their website and if you have any questions about what we offer for kids, email

This post is not sponsored. Information provided by the Sports Science Institute of SA (SSISA). Graphic is my own.


How 1000 days can change a child

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1000 days. This is the length of time from the start of pregnancy to a child’s second birthday. That sounds like (and often feels) like a long time when you are taking care of your family and baby, as they grow to a cute and curious toddler.  Looking back at the 1st 1000 days of both my children, it went so quickly and shaped them into the little people they are today. Ethan is 3 years this month and Paige turns 5 in January.

The quality of care and nutrition you and your child receives during these 1000 days has an important impact on the rest of their lives. I knew that eating right and feeding my child was important, but I didn’t appreciate the full impact it can have on their later development. We are providing our children with the essential building blocks for brain development, healthy growth and a strong immune system. If a child does not receive proper nutrition during these 1000 days, it can cause irreversible damage to their brain development and bodies.

Benefits of nutrition and healthcare:

1st 1000 days and the Cipla FoundationIf you have ever been without a meal for a day, you will know how hard it is to concentrate and what little energy your body has. Hungry children are more likely to have a worse school performance, than learners who have proper meals in the day. This will impact their future work prospects and ability to support their families. Healthier children and adults also place less of a burden on a country’s healthcare system.

Children who get the right nutrition in the 1st 1000 days are:

  • 10x more likely to overcome life threatening childhood diseases
  • More likely to have healthier families of their own
  • More likely to go on to earn 21% more in wages as adults
  • More likely to complete 5 more grades in school

You can start to see from the statistics, the long term impacts and benefits healthy nutrition and healthcare play in those crucial two years.

Ajuga and making a difference:

Accessibility to healthcare is a key issue for pregnant moms and children in South Africa, especially in rural areas. Cipla Foundation recognises these challenges and established the Ajuga initiative which provides fire-resistant structures to local communities. Knowing that these 1st 1000 days are crucial, Cipla ensure that all children at their early childhood development centres receive pre-school education, nutrition and healthcare for at least two years. These children are given a chance to grow up as healthy and caring people, who will become good parents and community members.

1st 1000 days and the Cipla FoundationThese children and caring individuals like Mama Martha at an Ajuga centre in Gugulethu, also need your help. You can show your support for their good work by donating to the Cipla Foundation. From as little as R75, you can contribute to a child’s access to crucial childhood development services. Or educate a child for a whole year for R1080. Be Santa this Christmas, and donate here.

* Research supplied by Cipla Foundation. Find out more here.




Smart Kids supplements range by Patrick Holford

Patrick Holford Smart Kids review by The Mommy CityKids need the added support of supplements, and that is a lot to do with our modern lifestyles and food production. Even if they are eating a variety of foods, a lot of meals and produce have been striped of their nutrients either in its production or though cooking methods. If they go to school, they have to be mentally and physically fit to sustain through the long days, and are also more prone to picking up nasty germs. Supplements are not just for winter and flu season, and if kids start taking them early enough, it becomes routine and a way of life. My kids take their vitamins just before bed. They come running to the kitchen to take their ‘medicine’ and then know to grab their waters before going to their rooms. That’s not to say getting them to sleep is any easier (that still takes a while), but at least they have a routine they know and like.

Patrick Holford sent me their Smart Kids range of supplements to try out. When choosing supplements, check that they contain the appropriate Nutrient Reference Value for your child’s age. You don’t want to be giving too little or too much of certain vitamins (that can be just as unhealthy) and if do give more than 1 supplement, check that you are not taking double of certain vitamins/minerals, or adjust the dosage. The Smart Kids range is formulated for varying age groups and nutritional requirements, and covers all the bases for physical and mental support.

Optimum Nutrition

The Smart Kids Optimum Nutrition is a daily vitamin and mineral supplement, and is sweetened with xylitol so your kids will enjoy taking them.


  • For ages 3 – 12+ years
  • Contains
  • Supports the immune systems and vitality
  • 60 chewable tablets (2 month supply for 3-5 years, 1 month supply for 6-8 years, 2-3 week supply for 9+ years)
  • Suitable for vegetarians

Chewable Omegas

The Smart Kids Chewable Omegas provides essential fatty acids for healthy brain function, immune support, emotional wellbeing and physical vitality. If the brain is nourished, your child is nourished. As it’s a softgel capsule, Ethan wasn’t sure about it the first time he tried it. After seeing his sister having them, well he couldn’t be left out, so he chews them happily now. When you bite down on it, you get the sweet flavour of the liquid inside, and then you chew the capsule which has a similar consistency of chewing gum.


  • For ages 2 – 11 years
  • Contains Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin D3 and Vitamin E
  • Supports brain development, focus and concentration
  • 60 chewable softgel capsules (2 month supply for 2-5 years, 1 month supply for 6+ years)

Brain Food

The Smart Kids Brain Food provide nutritional support for school children and helps with concentration, memory and focus. They are sweetened with xylitol and contain no sugar. I wouldn’t say it was great tasting, but tasty enough for the kids to take them without complaints.


  • For ages 6 – 11+ years
  • Contains essential nutrients phospholipids and B Vitamins
  • Supports mental vitality and performance
  • 60 chewable tablets (2 month supply for 6-10 years, 1 month supply for 11+ years)
  • Suitable for vegans and vegetarians

Get Up and Go™

The Smart Kids Get up and Go™ nutritious breakfast shake is great for picky eaters and for a quick breakfast as you rush off the school. You can add dairy milk, soy milk, rice milk or water to blend the shake, and ideally blend in a fruit such as a banana, pear, peach, or handful of berries.


  • For ages 2 – 10+ years
  • Contains a balanced blend of essential proteins, carbohydrates, fibre, eseential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals,
  • The Low GL formula supports physical and mental vitality without a sugar rush
  • 300g providing minimum of 25 servings
  • Suitable for vegetarians

This range of products is manufactured locally and available to buy online at Juniva and at selected stockists. Each product has a Nappi Code and depending on your medical aid, you may be eligible for a refund from your medical fund. As an extra green incentive, for every 2000 products sold, Patrick Holford plants a tree through Greenpop.

World Prematurity Day

World Prematurity Day17 November is World Premature Day and I encourage all of you to take a minute to consider the statistics of premature births and the extra support that these infants desperately need. In South Africa about 14% of all babies are born too early (before 37 weeks) and are subsequently classified as preemie babies needing special care to survive. The mortality rate of premature babies is 3X higher than in newborns and prematurity is the leading cause of newborn deaths while still the second leading cause of death after pneumonia in children under the age of 5. Those are worrying statistics and that is why having a day dedicated to creating awareness around prematurity is so important.

You may have had a premature baby yourself or someone close to you has, and either know firsthand or can empathize with parents who have faced the challenges and joys it brings. I have had the privilege to attend two events where I have spoken to specialists resident at neonatal centres in Cape Town about the challenges of medical care for preemies. I have heard first hand of the success rate of these units and how dedicated the doctors and nurses are in saving every life born early. Advances in medicine has meant more children survive if provided with proper medical care, however the earlier the child is born, the higher the risk and instances of complications. NICU and recovery is a traumatic experience for parents and although they know their child is being taken care of, they just wish they could hold them in their arms and make it all better. Hospitals can only help parents for as long as they are admitted and for checkups. Once they leave, parents face another set of challenges at home which are often forgotten or unknown. Some mothers are marginalized, blamed and suffer the emotional and financial burdens alone. Feeding and simple tasks such as dressing your child and changing their nappy can be overwhelming as they are so fragile and preemie clothing is not easily found. Special premature nappies are needed to offer fragile babies optimum protection and can fit their little bodies. Huggies® have understood this need and have a Preemies nappy range, for when love comes early.

I take for granted that my children were born at full term, that I am privileged to have access to private medical care, and that I have a loving support network to help care for my children. I am fortunate, however many parents face a different reality, where there is so much love and hope for their preemie baby, though they need a helping hand and support from their community. Please go Like the World Prematurity Day Page on Facebook and read the comments and see the photos that moms and dads share to lift the spirits of other parents who may be feeling helpless right now. Little Steps is also a trusted educational resource on prematurity and please share their link to anyone who may need their support. Show your support and wear purple for #WorldPrematurityDay.

How to give your child the best start in life


Patrick HolfordFrom the moment of conception to the arrival, nine months later, of a fully functioning, living, breathing human being, a baby uses the food that it receives in the womb to develop and grow. Once born, every morsel that goes into their mouth is used to fuel their body and brain for further growth – and at a fantastic rate. So no, little boys and girls are not made from puppy dog tails or sugar and spice – in reality, bones are made of calcium (amongst other things) and blood contains iron. Flesh is made up of protein and more than half of the brain is constructed from essential fats. We are, essentially, what we eat.

One of the most important and valuable gifts that you can give your child is the gift of optimum nutrition. By giving them the right carbohydrates, fats and proteins – the three major macronutrients, as well as all the vital micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that are essential for building, fuelling and energizing the body, you are setting your child up for optimum health and a body and mind built for success.

Knowing the theory behind what children should eat is half the battle won, but you need to teach them how to enjoy eating the foods that are good for them. Patrick Holford breaks down the important macro and micro nutrients and gives advice on how you can give your child the best start in life.


Like a cat drawn to catnip, humans are principally attracted to the taste of sweet things – carbohydrates. This is because although it is possible for us to use protein and fat for energy, carbohydrates are what the human body is designed to run on. Carbohydrates are

an important source of fuel for your child too, and should make up a quarter to one third of each of their meals. The trick is to introduce them to the right kinds of carbohydrates at an early age. If you “teach” your child to eat refined, fast releasing carbohydrates from the beginning, all other foods that are not as sweet will never taste as good, and you have lost the battle before it has begun. When children consume a lot of fast- releasing carbohydrates all at once, like a fizzy drink or white toast with jam, their blood sugar levels soar. Glucose is powerful stuff and can actually damage nerves and blood vessels.

Seesawing blood sugar levels can also affect their IQ – and not in a good way. Slow releasing or complex carbohydrates (wholegrains, vegetables, beans, lentils etc.) will help to keep your child’s blood sugar levels even, giving them more energy for longer. What’s more, to maximise mental performance, your child needs to have a consistent and even supply of glucose to the brain.


Fats are an important part of your child’s diet- at least the right ones are. Essential fats – omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids – because of their anti-inflammatory and immune supportive properties, help children to stay physically healthy, reducing the risk of allergies, asthma, eczema and infections. They are also vital to mental development and vitality. A deficiency in essential fats in your child’s diet could lead to fatigue, memory problems, behavioural and developmental problems, depression, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder and even autism. The best sources of these essential fats are oily fish, seeds and nuts. Salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna and eggs all contain good fatty acids. Flax, hemp, pumpkin, sesame seeds, walnuts and corn are all good foods to sneak into your child’s meals whenever you can.


Protein provides your child with amino acids, the building blocks of life. This means that a good supply of protein, and hence amino acids, will make normal growth and development possible. Protein, especially when eaten alongside carbohydrates lowers the GL (Glycaemic Load) of the meal and plays a key role in supporting good blood sugar balance. The best proteins (those with a good balance of amino acids) to include in your child’s diet include; quinoa, brown rice, chickpeas, tuna, salmon, sardines, chicken, eggs, natural yoghurt, cottage cheese, peas and beans, broccoli, spinach, lentils and seeds.


Vitamins and minerals are known as micronutrients, and if macronutrients – carbs, fats and proteins – are the brawn, vitamins and minerals are the brains. Without them, your child can’t turn carbohydrates into energy, process essential fats or build amino acids from proteins. In short, they are key to the task of building and rebuilding your child’s body and brain as they grow. Refining food to make white rice, white flour and white sugar removes up to 90% of some key minerals. Foods such as breakfast cereals must meet legal requirements (which are not optimum levels) therefore have some nutrients added back. The important message here is that getting plenty of these micronutrients in your child’s diet won’t happen by chance. Vitamin and mineral rich foods are unlikely to be their first choice. You have to teach them from an early age to love them. A good quality multivitamin with essential vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, chromium vitamin C, vitamin D and the B vitamins will only help ensure that your child is getting the optimum amounts of the key nutrients they need, and the ultimate head start in life.

juniva.comRecently I was invited to review, a specialist health, wellness and fitness e-tailor which stocks a variety of products available to purchase online and delivered to your door by courier. After browsing for a bit I bought immune support and vitamins by Viralmed and Bio-Strath for the kids since we are heading into flu season. I actually bought something for myself for a change, the anti-aging Solal eye serum and Patrick Holford’s Awake Food as mommy needs some energy. I focus so much on the kids, I forget to look after myself (I’m guessing a lot of moms feel the same), but by making a few small changes and including a little time for me in our routine, I hope to feel more energised. The online shopping experience is pain free, once you have created your account it will be even quicker to order again, and I especially like their repeats service.


  • Repeat & Save service where you receive a discounted price on repeat orders that are automatically sent monthly on the 15th or the 30th of every month. This way you won’t run out of your products, and you save money and time. You can cancel or amend your order at any time, receive email reminders, and you are only charged when your order is shipped.
  • Search products by category or by brand. Juniva specialises in vitamins, sport and fitness, weight loss and general health products. They also have a pregnancy category and stock the popular Georen Preg Omega and Vitabiotics Pregnacare ranges for pregnant moms.
  • View product description, composition and nutrition, directions and warnings, just like you would if you were reading the packaging.
  • Payment can be made by credit card, EFT or bank deposit.
  • Free returns and refund within 14 days.
  • Wish list so you won’t have to search again for products to buy at a later date.
  • Free courier delivery for orders over R350 and a flat fee of R50 applies for orders less than R350.

Juniva also have a blog with informative articles and I’m especially interested in the section for kids, as they discuss issues such as general health, how to choose the right vitamins for your family, ADHD, autism and allergies. Their expert advice also covers weight management, men and women’s health, and browsing through the articles I do feel inspired to live healthier.

Reader review of Just Engage antenatal classes

Did you attend antenatal classes and how did they help you prepare for your pregnancy and birth? Just Engage offers online antenatal classes for those who prefer the flexibility of learning online, with busy lives, and for moms who want a refresher course. We offered TMC reader Hazel Edginton a chance to review the course and hear what she had to say about the benefits and advice she would offer (there is also a discount voucher for every reader at the bottom of this post).

Courtesy Pure Photography
Credit: Pure Photography


  • You can choose the parts that are relevant and also go back over sections you want to see again. It was a particular plus to go over things at my own pace and when I had some time, as I worked full time up until a week before my daughter was born. Although my boyfriend was and still is very involved, getting him to go along to antenatal classes would have been a mission! It took a while to convince him to do the hospital tour.
  • The sections regarding a newborn are useful as well. Simple stuff, I probably watched that lesson on how to put the baby wrap on yourself and then to put baby in about 10 times before I nailed it. Sounds silly but one long piece of fabric when you don’t really know what you are doing is quite intimidating!
  • Regular contact via email to make sure everything was OK.


  • The course offers more benefits if you get going earlier in the pregnancy, as the healthy eating sections etc. are great if you are newly pregnant but I was probably too far along to truly appreciate it.
  • Being a type 2 diabetic, the course could offer a section covering common/chronic conditions in pregnancy.
  • It took 6 weeks of pain before breastfeeding became a pleasant experience, and wasn’t as enjoyable as it was made out to be. Even though I wouldn’t want to discourage first time moms, if they are aware that it can be tough but does get better, they may be more likely to push through and not give up early.

Hazel gave birth to her daughter Isabel on 11 September and she is the light of their lives. If you are uncertain about the need to do a course, watch the Just Engage promo video or take a read of their blog and articles What’s the point of antenatal classes? and Need a refresher? Keep informed by following Just Engage on Facebook and Twitter.Just Engage

Discount voucher:

All expecting readers will receive a fantastic 50% discount off a Just Engage antenatal course by using the voucher code ‘seconddegree‘ before 31 March 2015.