Your Doctor

Help Your Children Avoid Obesity

3rd – 9th July - National Childhood Obesity Week

One in four adults in the UK are now considered obese, and this statistic could rise to 50% by 2050 if we don’t act now to drastically change our current lifestyles. And it’s not just adults, 20% of children leaving primary school are now considered obese, so it’s time to not only start thinking about our own diets, but also those of our children to ensure they grow up healthy and happy.

Being overweight can not only have physical side effects such as increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, some types of cancer and stroke, but it can also have a major effect on your emotional well-being and self-esteem. Overweight children are generally more likely to stay obese as adults and to experience problems with social interactions and relationships because of bullying or lack of confidence due to their weight, which can have an impact on a child’s mental health for life. 

Obesity can be caused by environmental and cultural factors and lifestyle preferences, but is usually the result of an increase in calories, sugar and fat intake. Increased portion size and a steady decline in physical activity also play a major role in the rising rates of obesity. 

If you feel like your child is at risk of becoming overweight, or is already overweight then here are our tips on how you can promote a healthy lifestyle for your child. 

1. Children under five should be physically active indoors and outdoors every day for a least three hours. School age children should engage in at least one hour of aerobic activity a day. Limiting TV and computer screen time is a good way to ensure your child is engaging in more active activities!

2. Just walking one mile a day can burn 100 calories whether that be walking your children to and from school, or encouraging them to walk the dog with you. It’s incredible how small changes can make a huge difference. 

3. Be careful how you talk to children about eating – the last thing you want is for them to have eating issues and a negative relationship with food. Making sure they know what foods are more healthy than others and that everything in proportion is okay is vital for a healthy outlook on eating.

4. Start growing your own fruit and vegetables and then use these to make meals from scratch! Children often really enjoying gardening and cooking and it will help them develop an interest in healthy eating as well as equipping them with the knowledge of how to cook healthy, wholesome meals.

5. Make sure your portion sizes are correct. A child shouldn’t eat adult size portions and their plate should ideally comprise one quarter lean meat or fish, one quarter grains or healthy carbohydrates and one-half vegetables.

6. Eating healthy protein such as eggs and soldiers for breakfast means that your metabolism is kick-started and you’ll burn more calories throughout your day. 

7. Make sure you are buying healthy cereals. Breakfast is incredibly important but some cereals contain most of your child’s daily intake of salt or sugar. Stick to breakfasts like porridge or Weetabix. 

8. Make sure you’re include vegetables of all colours in your child’s diet – even if they’re fussy! Try and hide the vegetables in dishes such as Bolognese or fresh soups, or try giving smoothies made from fresh fruit. 

9. Be a role model. Children generally mimic their parents eating habits so no matter how hard you try to make them eat healthily, if you’re not setting a good example then your efforts may be futile. 

10. Stop rewarding your children with sweets! This makes them seem out-of-bounds and they become something your child will crave. Instead try rewarding them with activities like swimming, ice-skating or bowling!