Childhood obesity has reached epidemic levels in developed as well as in developing countries. Overweight and obesity in childhood are known to have significant impact on both physical and psychological health. Overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and more likely to develop non-communicable diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age.
The causes of childhood obesity are many and varied. Environmental factors, lifestyle preferences, and cultural environment all have major roles to play. In general, overweight and obesity are assumed to be the results of an increase in caloric and fat intake. On the other hand, there are supporting evidence that excessive sugar intake by soft drink, increased portion size, and steady decline in physical activity have been playing major roles in the rising rates of obesity all around the world. Childhood obesity can profoundly affect children’s physical health, social, and emotional well-being, and self-esteem. It is also associated with poor academic performance and a lower quality of life experienced by the child. Many co-morbid conditions like metabolic, cardiovascular, orthopaedic, neurological, hepatic, pulmonary, and renal disorders are also seen in association with childhood obesity.
However, there are some measures that can be taken to counteract obesity in children. Here are ten tips.
1. Help Children develop healthy eating habits
Help your children develop health eating habits by providing them with nutritious meals and snacks with an appropriate numbers of calories
Even small changes can have a big impact on your children’s diet. For example, provide them with plenty of vegetables, fresh fruit and whole grain products. Include low-fat or no-fat dairy products, and choose lean meals like poultry, fish, and lentils and beans for protein. Serve reasonably sized portions and consider reducing the size of the plate on which you serve food, to give the impression that you are serving more food than you are actually dishing up.
2. Encourage them to drink water
Children should be encouraged to drink as much water as possible. Regular intake of water helps keep the body hydrated and helps rid the body of harmful chemicals which build-up. It also boost the metabolism rate. If a child gets thirsty, encourage them to drink water instead of carbonated drinks which may contain a lot of sugar and calories.
3. Make favourite dishes healthier
If children have a favourite dish, consider if you can make them healthier by changing a few of the ingredients. For example, substitute heavy cream with evaporated skinned milk or low-fat yoghurt, replace butter with margarine, or baking chocolate with unsweetened cocoa powder. Chances are your children will hardly notice the difference, and the new improved recipe will soon become a favourite as well.
4. Remove calorie-rich temptations
Try not to fill your house with calorie-rich temptations like sweets, chocolate, or high-fat and salty snacks. Instead try to provide them with tasty, low-fat snacks that are less than 100% in calories and require no preparation time, such a medium-sized apple, or banana, or cup of grapes.
5. Encourage them to chew their food
The parents should teach their children on how to properly chew their food, as this aids the digestive process.
6. Help children understand the health benefits of being physically active
Talk to your children and educate them as to the health benefits of being physically active, including the strengthening of bones, lower blood pressure, reduced stress and anxiety, and increased self-esteem.
7. Encourage them to be physically active
The American Heart Association recommends that children and teens should participate in a least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week, and, if possible every day. Such activities include brisk walking, swimming, dancing, playing football, jumping rope and playing tag.
8. Reduce Sedentary Time
Although quiet time for reading and homework is fine, limit the amount of time they can spend on screen time – TV, video games, and the Internet – to no more than 2 hours a day. This includes social media like Facebook, WhatsApp, or Instagram. The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends that children aged two or younger should not be watching television at all. Instead, children should be encouraged to interact and engage with family members, and take part in games and other shared activities.
9. Adopt a positive attitude
Never mock a child about their weight. Instead maintain a positive attitude and encourage a healthy lifestyle.
10. Set a good example
One of the best ways to tackle childhood obesity is to set a good example. By eating the right diet and foods ourselves, leading a fit and healthy life, and not spending too much time in front of the TV or the Internet, we can provide the right role models for our children to follow. Remember we can preach the virtues of a healthy lifestyle all we want, but if we do not set the right example by our behaviour and attitudes, we cannot expect them to take us seriously.