Childhood Obesity: What Can Parents Do?
No doubt eating will be a recurring theme on A Positive Parent. Recently in the UK the headlines have been screaming about Childhood Obesity but in reality it’s a global issue with Fortune.com reporting “Child obesity around the world has reached alarming levels. An estimated 41 million children under 5 years old are either obese or overweight as of 2014, and the epidemic is hitting developing nations especially hard.” Healthy eating is really important to me but social inclusion is equally important.
I really don’t want my child to eat a sugary cake coated in sugary icing but in the same way I absolutely do not want her to be the only child not eating the cake and therefor socially excluding her, which could be more damaging than the sugar!
I am very lucky that I was able to keep my daughter sugar free til about 2 years old and as a result she has a relatively savoury tooth. I was an advocate of baby led weaning and feel that good heathly eating habits were established at a young age. In our house there was no sugar in pasta sauces to sweeten it or ketch-up on things to get them eaten, however I recently have found myself rewarding with foods my daughter perceives as treats (gutted really as reward and treats are two traps I did not want to get into) so recently on the edge of co-sleeping sleep deprivation I said to my 4 year old. If you sleep in your own bed all night you can have chocolate for breakfast ( admittedly 1 square of 85% dark chocolate with stevia as the sweeter) Ok not overly controlling feeding practices by any stretch of the imagination but I am aware it’s a slippery slope.
What The Experts Say
On Psychcentral Dr Claire Farrow, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Aston University, comments: “As a parent, there is often a natural instinct to try and protect our young children from eating ‘bad’ foods: those high in fat, sugar or salt. Instead we often use these food types as a treat or a reward, or even as a response to ease pain if children are upset. The evidence from our initial research shows that in doing this, we may be teaching children to use these foods to cope with their different emotions, and in turn unintentionally teaching them to emotionally eat later in life.”
However is not lost as whilst the emotional eating triggers need to be curbed its an issue that still needs extensive research obesity is not just down to bad eating habits Fortune.com tells us “In a new study in the journal Obesity Science & Practice, Cornell professors analyzed the food intake of about 6,000 people, according to MarketWatch.
The study found that consuming more fast food, candy and soda was not correlated with higher body mass indexes—“While a diet of chocolate bars and cheeseburgers washed down with a Coke is inadvisable from a nutritional standpoint, these foods are not likely to be a leading cause of obesity.” The trick, the professors say, is portion control. Eliminating the junk food that gets so much bad attention won’t make a difference unless it is paired with a generally improved diet and exercise.
What can you do?
The best advice I have found has come from Heart.org who write “You can help your child develop healthy habits early in life that will bring lifelong benefits. As a parent, you can encourage your kids to evaluate their food choice and physical activity habits. Here are some tips and guidelines to get you started”
Be a good role model – You don’t have to be perfect all the time, but if kids see you trying to eat right and getting physically active, they’ll take notice of your efforts. You’ll send a message that good health is important to your family.
Keep things positive – Kid’s don’t like to hear what they can’t do, tell them what they can do instead. Keep it fun and positive. Everyone likes to be praised for a job well done. Celebrate successes and help children and teens develop a good self-image.
Get the whole family moving – Plan times for everyone to get moving together. Take walks, ride bikes, go swimming, garden or just play hide-and-seek outside. Everyone will benefit from the exercise and the time together.
Be realistic – Setting realistic goals and limits are key to adopting any new behavior. Small steps and gradual changes can make a big difference in your health over time, so start small and build up.
Limit TV, video game and computer time – These habits lead to a sedentary lifestyle and excessive snacking, which increase risks for obesity and cardiovascular disease. Limit screen time to 2 hours per day.
Encourage physical activities that they’ll really enjoy – Every child is unique. Let your child experiment with different activities until they find something that they really love doing. They’ll stick with it longer if they love it.
Pick truly rewarding rewards – Don’t reward children with tv, video games, candy or snacks for a job well done. Find other ways to celebrate good behavior.
Make dinnertime a family time – When everyone sits down together to eat, there’s less chance of children eating the wrong foods or snacking too much. Get your kids involved in cooking and planning meals. Everyone develops good eating habits together and the quality time with the family will be an added bonus.
Make a game of reading food labels – The whole family will learn what’s good for their health and be more conscious of what they eat. It’s a habit that helps change behavior for a lifetime. Learn more about reading nutrition labels.
Stay involved – Be an advocate for healthier children. Insist on good food choices at school. Make sure your children’s healthcare providers are monitoring cardiovascular indicators like BMI, blood pressure and cholesterol. Contact public officials on matters of the heart. Make your voice heard.
There are some great books out there to encourage good eating habits in children.
Find more books about children’s books about eating here
Tags: Children, Eating, food, habits, help, kids, reward