Childhood obesity is a serious health condition affecting children and teenagers. And as with most health issues it is much easier to prevent than to cure. The number of obese children is increasing drastically, with about a quarter of children having an unhealthy weight. Children generally have lesser health concerns and disorders as compared to adults. But sadly, this is not true when it comes to overweight kids.
Obesity is a precursor to several medical problems that will play havoc with health and adversely affect the quality of life, both in childhood as well as in adulthood. Obesity also leads to stress and behavioural disorders in children and young teens. Overweight children are more prone to getting teased by peers and are subjected to bullying.
This results in socially unadjusted and disturbed growing years, trauma and subsequent mental health issues. Obesity in children is usually a result of poor lifestyle habits. Children born to overweight parents tend to be obese. Certain health conditions and medications also contribute to obesity, but are not the major contributing causes to childhood obesity. Simple lifestyle changes will do a world of good to your children and contribute to their healthy and happy childhood.
Promote Healthy Food Habits
The single most important cause of childhood obesity is unhealthy eating habits. With both parents working, there is hardly any time for preparing or consuming healthy and wholesome family meals. Quick and readymade meals, pre-packaged food and takeaways dominate our daily diet today.
They pack in a lot of calories but do not provide any nutrition to our children. None of us look forward to cooking in the evening after a tiring day at work. But remember you need to set an example for your children and ensure the dinner at home is healthy and tasty. Here are some tips to help you.
Kids need to eat healthy, hearty and happy
Let’s see how you can achieve this
- Include vegetables, fruits and whole-grain products in your diet
- Non-fat or low-fat dairy products should be consumed
- Lean-meat, poultry and fish are great sources of proteins
- Encourage kids to have green and crunchy salads
- Smoothies, grilled chicken sandwiches, fish cakes, chicken and veg casseroles, fish fingers and healthy pasta are kid-friendly choices
- Make the effort. Scout the Web and discover new recipes; your kids enjoying what you whip up will encourage you to take the healthy path
- Serve small portions and ditch the ‘clean-plate’ rule, let your kids only eat what they want
- Colours attract children, so incorporate colour and variety into children’s food
- Encourage your kids to join you for grocery shopping and let them pack their school lunch
- Take your son’s help in preparing dinner. Your child will be eager to try out the mushroom and chickpea burger he ‘helped’ you make.
Set a Good Example
Children tend to ape their parents, so make sure you are being a good role model. Don’t munch on chips and gulp down cola while watching TV. You won’t be able to prevent your child from doing the same. Let salads and all other healthy options be a part of your diet as well.Make sure you eat at the table and do not skip meals. Switch off the TV during meal times and pay attention to each other at the table. Let your child notice how you eat and learn from you. Ensure meal times are fun and happy.
Give food the importance and priority it deserves, but never over-indulge. Simple, tasty and frugal cooking is healthy for you and is easy on your wallet as well. Enjoy the food you prepare and try to be innovative. Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t obsess with your weight. Do not link food to physical appearance, and do not introduce your young children to dieting and other eating disorders.
Make Treats Less Calorie-Dense
Occasional treats and sweet indulgence are fine, but stay away from sugary, high-calorie and salty stuff. Mixed-fruit salad, banana and custard, homemade frozen popsicles, home-baked cakes, frozen fruit yoghurt and puddings are all great for desserts. Offer options for your kids and they are sure to lap up the tasty and healthy fare you churn out for them.
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Don’t brand any food as ‘bad’ and ban it for your children. Kids love forbidden stuff and will be tempted to sneak them in when you are away. So don’t be too rigid and allow for occasional bending of rules.
Limit Screen Time
This is easier said than done, especially in the case of older children aged 6 and above. It is estimated an average 7-year-old spends close to 4 hours per day in front of various screens, that of the TV, the computer, the gaming consoles and the hand-held entertainment gadgets. In many cases the time duration is even longer.
Limiting screen time is very important to ensure a safe and healthy life for your children. Spending time in front of TV encourages a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy and impulsive snacking and weight gain. Set time limits and ensure the TV is switched off after your child’s favourite program. Do not allow to switch channels and watch whatever comes on. Gaming and other electronic entertainment activities should be limited to weekends, or ensure you join in with your child and limit the time spent on it.
Get out of the Door
Outdoor play time is critical and crucial to your child’s overall health. The health benefits associated with outdoor play activities are many.
Moderate-to-intense physical activity ensures bone strength and development, improves cardiovascular health and reflexes, reduces blood pressure, helps develop social skills and is calming and relaxing to the children. Since exercise provides an outlet to release pent up energy, active children are less aggressive at home. Ensure your child gets at least an hour’s duration of physical workout every day if possible. You can set an example and add physical activity to your daily routine. Encourage your child to join in for walks, cycling, outdoor games and swimming sessions. In no time, he will grow to enjoy them and follow an active daily routine on his own.
Obesity is a lifestyle disease that has grown to epic proportions thanks to a combination of our careless eating habits, our addiction to the Internet and the TV, and the sedentary lifestyle we follow. It is high time we woke up to the danger and save our children from bearing the brunt of it.