April 7th, 2017
Childhood obesity is a complex medical condition that has become a health challenge for children and adolescents around the world. In Singapore, our childhood obesity figures do not make for pleasant viewing, with a 0.9% increase in the percentage of obese school children between 1994 and 2007. With obesity rates showing no signs of stopping, the onus is on us as parents to do what’s best for our children’s health. Here are some ways you can help them conquer the weighing scale and fight obesity.
1. Be the change you (and your child) want to see
When it comes to educating your children, it is true that “more is caught than taught”. Children learn best by modelling, and parents are the biggest examples they follow. If your child is struggling with his or her weight, you can inspire them to adopt a healthier lifestyle by encouraging them (and yourself) to be less sedentary and watching their diet. Set aside designated family days for exercise and heading out into the great outdoors. If you are a couch potato, chances are your little one will be less averse to being one.
2. Start a dining table revolution
Besides an inactive lifestyle, your child’s meal intake is the next frontier against obesity. While we are all aware of the importance of eating right, the key is to introduce dietary changes gradually and steadily. It is hard to attempt to overhaul that fish and chips lunch, so take it step by step. Replace the soda with lemon water, or add a side of greens with the meal. Always look for ways to make meals healthier, but listen to your child and work out a compromise, rather than being a food dictator.
3. Cut the calories
Calories are the biggest culprit to gaining weight, especially empty calories commonly found in foods like cakes, ice cream, hot dogs and pizza. These foods have many calories but are not nutritionally balanced, leading to weight gain. The tip is not to wage war on calories, but replace foods with empty calories with more nutrient-dense items. Sugary treats like candies and cookies can be replaced with low-fat yogurt and cut fruits, while turkey breast and skinless chicken are good substitutes like high-fat meats and processed food like luncheon meat.
4. Less TV, more sleep
Technology and social media is keep our kids awake these days. Research has shown that the pervasive light from electronic devices may impede a good night’s sleep, leading to an increase in the cortisol hormone, which makes you eat more. Sufficient sleep is often overlooked in the battle of the waistline, so ensure your child gets enough of it (more than five hours a night) by limiting screen time.
5. Watch and learn
The best way to learn is through experience. If you wish to educate your children on the importance of making informed food choices, involve them in the entire process – from planning for meals, to shopping for ingredients and cooking. By seeing for themselves what goes into their day to day meals, your little ones can better appreciate food as a well-thought system and start making sure that everything which goes onto their plate is healthy.
Read more about childhood obesity in the latest Mar/Apr issue of Parents World, available on newsstands now!
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