Shaping your child’s future – Preventing childhood obesity

The increase prevalence of overweight children is a significant and alarming public health problem. Balance is the key in helping your child maintain a healthy weight. Balance the energy your child eats and drinks with the energy used through physical activity and normal growth.

Whether your child is at risk of becoming overweight or currently at a healthy weight, you can take measures to get or keep things on the right track.

Encourage healthy eating habits. Small changes can make a huge difference!
• Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole-grain products instead of sugary and refined food items. E.g. sugary cereals, crisps, sweets, Tinkies etc.
• Include low-fat or non-fat milk and dairy products. E.g. yoghurt, cheese and milk
• Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils and beans for protein.
• Serve age appropriate portions sizes (contact our dietitian’s for more information)
• Encourage your family to drink lots of water.
• Limit sugar-sweetened beverages, sugar containing drinks.
• Limit sodium/ salt and saturated fat e.g. skin on chicken.
• Establish daily meal and snack times, and try eating together as a family as frequently as possible.

Make favourite dishes healthier
Many of your favourite recipes can be made healthier with a few changes (using whole wheat pasta or vegetables instead of the conventional pasta) or add veggies to a pasta dish.

Plan healthy snacks and keep treats for occasions
Give treats only occasionally and remember moderation is the key. Continuous snacking may lead to overeating. Try to plan healthy snacks at specific times. Focus on selecting healthy food items such as fruits, vegetables, grains, low-sugar cereals, low-fat dairy products, and lean meats. Avoid excessive amounts of fruit juices, which are energy dense, but contain fewer nutrients than the fruits they come from.

Promote physical activity
Children and teens should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week, and every day if possible. Some examples of moderate-intensity physical activity include:
o Brisk walking
o Jumping rope
o Playing sports
o Swimming
o Dancing

Reduce sedentary time
Although sedentary time for reading and homework is fine, limit TV and other screen time to no more than two hours a day. Encourage your children to find fun activities to do with family members or on their own that simply involve more activity.

Set an example
Parents and caregivers can help prevent childhood obesity by providing healthy meals and snacks, daily physical activity, and nutrition education. Healthy meals and snacks provide nutrition for growing bodies while modeling healthy eating behavior and attitudes. Increased physical activity reduces health risks and helps weight management. Nutrition education helps young children develop an awareness of good nutrition and healthy eating habits for a lifetime.

Note: Overweight and obese children and teens should reduce the rate of weight gain while allowing normal growth and development. Don’t put your child on a weight-reduction diet without talking to your health care provider.
For more information contact the Dietitians at Easy Health Wellness.
Written by Monika Nieuwoudt