Childhood obesity (CO) is a serious health issue which increases every year dramatically and concerns lots of health specialists and of course parents. Unfortunately, there are lots of parents who struggle to recognize that their child is overweight or obese (1, 2). CO was raised over 70% between the years 1989 to 1998 on the preschool children, under the age of 4 years old (3). Based on a cohort study (1) where 277 healthy children participated, it showed that a big percentage of the parents didn’t recognize their children as overweight. It is very important that parents recognize if their children have a healthy body weight, if they are overweight or obese, as this will help them to find a solution and ask for a specialist’s help. Below there are 5 healthy habits that a family should have, so they can successfully fight obesity.
Find an activity all the family can do together.
Following an exercise regime on a daily basis is a habit someone should have if he / she wants to improve his / her lifestyle and keep healthy. Children should exercise on a daily basis for at least an hour of moderate to high intensity exercise according to the guidelines of World Health Organization. Common activities which the whole family can do together are team sports like football, basketball, volleyball, handball or other types like hiking / swimming / walking and running. These activities will be a great workout, will keep your bodies healthy and the whole family can enjoy all together.
Increase salad and vegetable intake.
Always remember that half of your plate should be filled up with vegetables and salads (4). You should actually teach your children to eat lots vegetables by cooking with them and showing to them how important nutritious food is for the body, mind and health. There are lots of workshops you can do which will show to the whole family how to cook healthily and prepare balanced meals full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. This is also another funny and effective activity you can do with your children.
Add more legumes to your diet.
Legumes such as lentils, beans, fava beans and all the different varieties contain plant based proteins, are high in fibres, low in calories and low in saturated fats (4). They belong to the very healthy group of foods that both you and your children can have at least 3 to 4 times per week. This habit will help you to not overdo it with meat and especially it will help in reducing red meat consumption. There are plenty of recipes you can find online which can make your legumes even more delicious.
Eat less sugar and make healthier cakes, biscuits and bars.
Sugar should definitely be consumed in moderation as it will increase the body weight while it makes the body crave more sugary foods and eat more often. If you struggle to completely cut it down, you can just start making healthier options and use more natural substances like honey, stevia, maple and agave syrup. You should still be very careful even when you use the natural sweeteners as they still contain sugars and they shouldn’t be over-consumed. Teach your children to recognize the foods that are high in sugars either by going to a relevant nutrition workshop or by showing them how to read the labels on the packages.
Make a filling breakfast
Breakfast considers one of the most important meals of the day as it actually ‘’breaks the fast’’, after a long time of not eating – usually about 8 hours sleep. You should teach your children to always have breakfast and go for the healthy options, as it will help them start their day full of energy while feeling satiated. Children who have a healthy breakfast tend to have better concentration and better results at school while they mainly belong to healthy Body Mass Index range (5). Give them a healthy oats option with milk, a few nuts or seeds, a bit of nut butter and fruit. The protein and fibre content that an option like this have will fill them up, keep them happy and will provide the body with all the required nutrients a child needs on a daily basis.
Teaching your children to follow a healthy diet from a very young age will make them recognize the importance of healthy eating and exercise on their health and will make them think twice what they put into their bodies as they grow up. Growing up healthy children is like you are growing up healthy individuals with normal body fat percentages.
- Jeffery, A .N. (2004). Parent’s awareness of overweight in themselves and their children : cross sectional study within a cohort. BMJ, http://bmj.com/cgi/doi/10.1136/bmj.38315.451539.F7, 23, 330.
- Towns N. and D’Auria J. (2009). Parental perceptions of their child’s overweight: an integrative review of the literature. J Pediatr Nurs, 24(2), 115–30.
- Brunded P., (2001). Prevalence of overweight and obese children between 1989 and 1998: population based series of cross sectional studies. BMJ, 322 – 326.
- Hark, L. and Deen, D. (2005). Nutrition for life. The definitive guide to eating well for good health. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley.
Adolphus, K., Lawton, C. and Lye, L. (2013). The effects of breakfast on behavior and academic performance in children and adolescents. Front Hum Neurosci, (7), 425.