Childhood obesity is one the biggest fast raising health issues, that affects children in the UK, United States and worldwide. It’s the condition where the child’s body has excess body fat and the diagnosis is normally based on the body mass index (body weight / height2) (1). Childhood obesity can be the beginning for a variety of serious diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, raised bad cholesterol, respiratory problems, sleep issues and cancer (1). Two more conditions that childhood obesity can provoke is low self – esteem and depression (1).
The main factors that influence a child’s weight are genetics, metabolism, eating and physical activity habits, social and environmental factors (1). There are at least five habits that a child and his / her family can change so they can achieve normal – healthy weight levels and decrease the possibility of developing a disease.
1. Increase the physical activity levels (2).
It’s very important for the children to learn to exercise from a very young age and understand the benefits exercise can offer to their bodies and brain. To lower the body weight the children either need to decrease their caloric intake or need to increase physical activity. Any type of physical activity e.g. waking, cycling, running, swimming or just going out with the family will help the children to burn more calories while enjoying themselves. Physical activity will also help the children to socialize with other people of similar age and can also bring the family closer together.
2. Stop drinking sugary drinks.
Our bodies need water to function well and stay hydrated. Drinking water compared to ready made juices and sugary drinks is very different. Consuming drinks that are high in sugars will just increase the caloric intake without providing any nutrients. The more your child drinks sugary drinks the more his / her body craves them. These drinks have no additional benefits to the body than just adding extra sugar to your child’s diet.
3. Have a salad with every meal (2).
Teach your children that their meals should be colorful and should contain a variety of vegetables. Every meal they have should be accompanied with a salad rich in vitamins and minerals. Make sure they understand that the more colors the food contains the healthier for them. Green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, sweet potato, courgettes, aubergines and cabbage are all healthy options, necessary for the body to function well.
4. Have no more than 2 portions of fruit a day and choose the low sugar fruits (2).
Fruits are high in vitamins and minerals, but due to their sugar content when consumed in excess they can increase the daily caloric intake without even realizing. Very young children who suffer from obesity shouldn’t overdo with fruits as well. It’s very important to consume fruits on a daily basis but at the same time it’s important to give to your children fruits that contain less sugar. The fruits that have lower sugar content are apples, pears, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, apricots and oranges. Make sure they take one of these fruits with them at school on a daily basis.
5. How to minimize chocolate and treats.
The best way for the children to avoid eating sugary treats and chocolate is not to find them in the house. When children don’t see these foods in their environment they will actually understand that these foods are only used to be eaten as treats and not on a daily basis. Of course children can have a bit of chocolate or sweets every now and then, but it’s very important not to make it a habit. Avoid buying things from the super market that they will add calories to your child’s body without providing any nutrients.
These steps are easy to be followed and will help your children improve their health and metabolism while they will manage to decrease their body weight and will grow up to become healthy adults.
- Hark, L. and Deen, D. (2005). Nutrition for life. The definitive guide to eating well for good health. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley.