By Carey Haupt RD (SA) Registered Dietician, mother of 2 small angels, one of whom is a renowned sleep monster, lover of a agreat read and found of the wonderful Family Kitchen.
Obesity… It’s an ugly word, but as we head into the ‘eating season’ take this time to take ownership of it and make a change! A healthy weight is not only vital for your child’s health and wellbeing, but as any woman will attest to, it can also be a great source of anguish. Overeating, lack of exercise and increased inactivity are the usual suspects but to ensure your child reaps the benefits of a healthy weight we need to understand the drivers of childhood obesity.
There are seven childhood obesity drivers:
- Social influences- friends and family
- Food production- what foods are available to your child
- Food consumption- what your child decides to eat
- Biology- genetic factors
- Individual psychology- what your child thinks of themselves/ how they feel they fit in
- Individual activity- how much activity your child does
- Environmental activity- if your child is exposed to activity
Although it is impossible to control all the drivers that may affect your child’s relationship with food, you can help your children make healthy food and lifestyle choices.
Basic healthy eating habits that you can teach your child include eating fruit and vegetables on a daily basis, choosing to drink water instead of cold drink and monitoring how much they eat also known as Portion Control. Shops distort our understanding of what a correct portion size is by selling large portions cheaply and leading us to believe these are “normal”. This can lead to over eating.
By managing the type of foods that are available in your home and setting house rules on electronics, you are helping your child. Set the example by choosing healthy foods to eat, drink and snack on. Stock your cupboards with fresh fruit and vegetables, popcorn and iced water (flavoured if need be with lemon/ mint). Some children have as much as 8 hours of recreational screen time (TV/ computer/ tablet) in a day! Screen time prevents your child from being active and so it is important to limit this and encourage regular physical activity. Watching TV is linked to increased snacking and some studies have even shown that just the act of watching TV can stimulate appetite (think movies and popcorn!
You should encourage your child to be physically active on a daily basis and to become involved in family meal times. By highlighting the benefits (strong bones and muscles like a superhero) and making it a part of your family time (walking the dog, going on picnics or swimming) exercise becomes fun! Get your child involved by allowing them to help with the shopping, decide on the ingredients or help cook the meal. Their involvement will depend on their age, but they are never too young to be part of the kitchen life!
Equip your kids with the correct knowledge about food and healthy lifestyle choices to enable them to make the most out of their lives!