1. Does Childhood Obesity come with any health risks?
Every day, we’re faced with a new set of worrying statistics about childhood obesity. The number of children in England leaving primary school overweight or obese has reached over 200,000 for the first time in the country’s history.
This means that in an average class of 30 pupils, seven children are likely to have started school overweight or obese. And by the time this class leaves primary school and starts secondary, this number will have increased to 10 children.
It can be difficult for parents to make sure their children are exercising and making healthy food choices. But it’s really important that we keep careful watch, as an obese child is five times more likely than a child of healthy weight to be obese as an adult.
This is when the health risks really start to come into play: obese adults are at a much greater risk of developing serious health conditions like cancer when compared to their peers of healthier weights.
There are also risks that come in much earlier. For example, a marked increase in the rate of stroke has been seen in children ages 5 to 14, according to the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2011.
It’s difficult to imagine anything worse than a child having a stroke. Part of the brain dies during a stroke – it’s the brain’s equivalent to a heart attack.
A child’s brain should not die – it should be burgeoning with newly acquired experience and information, and growing bigger and stronger each day.
A stroke will prevent a child from having a happy, healthy childhood.
2. It Starts with Pregnancy
It’s never too early to start introducing a child to healthy food habits!
Studies have found that the amniotic fluid that surrounds a baby in the womb can reflect the food that the mother eats while pregnant.
From 15 weeks onwards, a foetus can respond to the flavours reflected in this fluid, and will swallow less if it tastes bitter and more if it tastes sweet.
The milk produced while breastfeeding will also be flavoured by the foods a mother eats. When the baby is weaned, they will then be more receptive to the flavours to which they were exposed in the womb and during breastfeeding.
3. Help Them Choose Healthy Foods
Convenience foods like chocolate, sodas and crisps, as well as processed meals, are often high in salt, sugar and unhealthy fats. Try to replace these with healthier snacks.
4. Learn about Healthy Portions
It might take a while to adjust if a child is used to eating larger portions, but it’s important to make sure child-size portions are given at meal times (if a child is really hungry they can ask for more).
It can also make it harder for a child to tell when they’re naturally full if they are forced to finish everything on their plate.
5. Emphasise Exercise
It’s important for children to stay active, however difficult that may be in today’s technological world.
Try a new outdoor activity, or encourage them to join a local children’s sport team.
Simply going for a 10-minute walk after dinner can be an easy way to get a child exercising - and it doesn’t have to happen all at once, so long as it does happen.
6. Be the Example
Parents are less likely to raise obese children if they are slim themselves, don’t gain too much weight or smoke during pregnancy and maintain healthy levels of vitamin D.