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Child obesity is now becoming the new plague today in the world. I often get to see children suffering from obesity yet sadly their parents think that being chubby signifies that a child is well nourished. Being obese at a tender age can lead to increasing the risks of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and even high blood pressure.
Alarming statistics indicate that children as young as the age of nine are having heart attacks and babies as young as three years of age have type 1 diabetes. It's time to fight this harsh reality and take charge of a healthy lifestyle.
FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TOWARDS OBESITY
The current situation suggests that since most families have full time working parents it has now become a challenge to prepare nourishing meals for children. As a result, mostly due to time constraints parents end up packing highly processed ready-made meals and food with too much sugar as opposed to a balanced homemade nourishing meal.
Children get exposed to media whereby commercials lure them into tasting foods which are not only high in fats and sugar but also have high amounts of sodium. Consuming unhealthy food frequently leads to adverse chronic illness.
Up until the late 1990's, children were very active in various sports activities. Games or physical activities were not limited to school itself but often children gathered and played games such as catching catch, hide and seek, football and even cycling within the neighbourhood. When computers and mobile phones came into existence a sudden decline was noted in physical activities as a lot of software creations containing games were introduced. Unknowingly this influenced children into becoming addicted to playing games at home giving rise to having limited to no physical exercises nor interactions. The lack of physical exercises started jeopardising children's health.
HOW TO PREVENT CHILD OBESITY
Parents should encourage their children to eat a well-balanced meal, have the right amount of portion and do an adequate number of physical exercises daily to help maintain a healthy balance. After all, prevention is better than cure. Let's take a look at some simple steps that a parent can take to help a child build a better understanding of healthy habits.
CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME
As parents you should be aware that a child is constantly observing your habits. As there is a saying that goes as "practice what you preach" you as the parent should be more conscious of your eating habits.
DO NOT SKIP BREAKFAST
Breakfast is the first meal of the day, and this meal should never be ignored at any cost whatsoever. Make healthier choices for breakfast for children. Eating breakfast regulates blood sugar and helps to sustain good energy for a couple of hours. This also helps the child not to binge eat foods high in sugar and fat.
Once you realise that your child needs to manage his or her weight, the first thing to do is to be mindful about their eating habits and how it can be managed to bring about better health.
Encourage them to eat vegetables and fruits. You can involve your child whenever you go to buy vegetables and fruits by asking them to choose what they'd fancy. Replace whole milk and yoghurt with skimmed milk and skimmed yoghurt. Keep the food pantry free from packaged ready to make meals, cookies and biscuits, crisps, and wafers. Instead substitute it with healthier homemade options. Limit the use of oily food. Instead opt for baked, stir fried, grilled, or sautéed meals.
Make desserts at home whereby sugar can be replaced by honey or dates. And refined white flour can be replaced with wheat or gluten free products. Avoid processed oil and use olive oil while cooking. Keep away frozen processed ready-made food. Ice creams and milkshakes can be made at home with the use of fresh fruits of your choice, skimmed milk or skimmed yoghurt.
Hydration is essential. One can add a slice of a lemon or cucumber, orange, strawberry, and even mint leaves just so as to enhance the flavour of water. Keep in mind that each meal should have all the major nutrients and that proteins and carbohydrates should always be balanced. As childhood growth is a very rapid one should never resort towards depriving food in the name of "diet", but instead remember that food is needed for the overall growth of a child.
Exercise is vital. Make it a habit for a child to exercise daily for at least half an hour. As a parent you can engage some time to join in with your child in any form of exercise such as walking, a light jog, swimming or even cycling. During holidays make plans to go trekking or go for walking expedition with your child. Structured exercise programs such as Zumba or dancing can also be beneficial to them.
In most cases I have often noticed that mealtimes are usually not fixed. Here the parent should make sure that the food will be served at a fixed time and that the kitchen will be closed at 8:30 pm. Having a scheduled time to eat meals brings about discipline and also helps to regulate digestion with ease.
LESS SCREEN TIME
The use of screen time should strictly be avoided during meals. Meals should be enjoyed with family whereby one may exchange how they spent their time. This also encourages awareness about what a child is eating and also helps monitor the portion being served.
Be gentle and kind towards your child as they go through the journey of childhood obesity. As this can be very challenging especially for the child. Today children have to endure a lot from peer pressure. Body shaming is sadly becoming a reality which can be very nerve-wracking for a child to go through. Encourage your child to choose better food options and don't make them feel miserable about their weight gain. Talk to them and encourage them to be mindful about their food choices frequently and help them understand that being healthy is the new high.
Parents, it's time to choose wisely and to give priority to your child's healthy well-being. By implementing a healthy well-balanced diet and supporting it with an adequate number of physical exercises one cannot go wrong.
By Disha Sharma