Tackling child obesity at home – five steps to follow

World Obesity Day celebrated on 11 October was established in 2015 with the aim of stimulating and supporting practical actions that will help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight and reverse the global obesity crisis.

The theme of this year’s World Obesity Day is Ending Childhood Obesity.

The prevalence of infant, childhood and adolescent obesity is rising around the world. Obesity is likely to negatively impact on a child’s immediate and long-term health, educational attainment and quality of life. While levels are plateauing in some countries and regions, the absolute numbers continue to rise, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

An important part of being a parent is to help your children eat well and be physically active. When children eat well they have the nutrients and energy they need to grow. Healthy eating helps children concentrate and perform better in school, sports and other activities. Being physically active helps children be strong and fit and improves confidence.

Weight assessment in children
It is normal for children to grow quickly and gain weight during growth spurts. At other times growth may be slower.  You can assess your child’s weight at a clinic by a health care professional or a dietitian, who will record your child’s age, weight, height, and BMI on a growth chart and interpret the results together with a detail family history and diet assessment.  Help your children to focus on eating habits, physical activity and overall health rather than body weight.

The most important thing you can do to help your children develop healthy habits is to lead by example and be a good role model. Your children learn their health habits from you. If you eat a variety of healthy foods and stay active, chances are that your children will too.
Help your children to eat well and be active by following the following five steps below:

  1. Eat Meals With Your Family
    Making mealtimes an important part of the day and enjoying meals together can help children make better food choices, stay at a healthier weight and have a more positive body image. Get your children involved with meal planning and grocery shopping. Serve foods from at least three food groups at meals.
  2. Plan and Pack Healthy Meals and Snacks
    Busy schedules make it important to plan ahead for healthy eating. Plan your meals ahead of time so that you have all the foods you need on hand.
  3. Trust Your Child’s Appetite
    Trust that your children know how much they need to eat. Encourage children to listen and respond to their signals of hunger and fullness. As a parent, offer your children a variety of healthy foods at their meals and snack times. Your children can then decide which foods and how much food they want to eat. Let children serve themselves healthy foods until they are full. When children are growing quickly, they may eat more. They may eat less when they are growing more slowly. It is okay if your children do not finish their meals.
  4. Create an Environment that Supports Healthy Eating
    Help make it easier for your children to eat well and be active wherever they live, learn, and play.
  5. Stay Fit With Fun Activities
    Being active every day is important for healthy growth and development. Physical activity can help increase your child’s self-esteem and promote a healthy body weight.
  • Preschoolers under age five should be active for at least 180 minutes each day. This can include any intensity of activity spread throughout the day.
  • Children ages five to 11 should aim for 60 minutes of moderate-to vigorous intensity physical activity each day. Activity does not have to take place all at one time. Every 10 minutes of activity counts towards the activity goals. The key is to keep it fun and be involved!

Most children do not need a vitamin/mineral supplement if they are eating a variety of foods. It is best for children to get the nutrients they need from food. Talk to your doctor or health professional before giving your child supplements. Weight loss is not usually recommended for children. This is because children are actively growing. If you are concerned about your child’s weight, speak to a health professional. An unhealthy approach to weight loss can be very harmful to your child’s physical health and well-being.  That’s why we’re calling everyone to Act Now and join us in calling for urgent government action to end childhood obesity this #WorldObesityDay.

Anke van Waveren, Registered dietitian

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