Sadly, obesity in children has become a major health issue world wide with millions of children, in many first world countries, suffering from this problem. And unless parents take a stand now, the numbers are going to continue to rise.
Parents the first line of defence in struggle against childhood obesity
So what can you do to help?
1. As soon as your children start on solids, make it a rule that you will help them become familiar with healthy food so that they do not get attached to fast foods, junk foods or processed foods.
2. Of course part of the problem can be if you as parents are not too fussed about what you eat so this is the time to change the whole family to a healthier way of eating. Remember that many children are picky about food and some do not like all the foods on their plates mixed up together. I remember when my children were small, they used to say they did not like “wet food”. Anything with gravy was out so no soups, stews etc. Raw foods are very healthy so they might prefer to have finger foods – offer a variety of raw and fresh fruits and vegetables. Lightly steamed vegetables can be improved with good quality olive oil, real butter or a topping of grated cheese.
3. If your children are really hungry, don't be tempted to give any sugary or salty snacks – a plate of fruit or freshly chopped carrots, tomato, sweet peppers or celery is perfect. I have a very fussy grandson but he and his Dad have "celery crunching" competitions as an in between snack and it works well. Sometimes you need to be especially creative!
4. Don't let eating healthily become a battle ground. Just be firm. Sometimes the best way to put the message across is by following a healthy lifestyle yourself. If the bad stuff is not in the house in the first place, then your child cannot eat it!
5. Avoid using food as a reward for good deeds, good grades or for helping with chores. Rather use love and kind words of gratitude and praise.
6. Every family enjoys eating out as an occasional treat but just be careful what your child chooses. If you give him a couple of options to choose from, you can ensure they are healthy choices.
7. Get your child into the habit of drinking lots of water from as young an age as possible. There is no need to drink anything else apart from an occasional milk or fruit juice. But the milk must be unflavored with no added sugar and the fruit juice should be pure with no added sugar (get your child into the habit of drinking such fruit juice with water added and not more than once or twice a day). Sodas should be completely off the menu at all times - they are full of sugar and worse can become addictive.
8. Encourage a healthy outdoor lifestyle for your child with sports and other activities. If you child shows a special interest in or aptitude to one particular sport, give all the encouragement possible.
9. Help your child develop a positive self-image because “comfort eating” often comes. about as a result of poor self-image. This means reinforcing the good things instead of focusing on any failures. Encourage your child to have faith in his or her ability to do well at something.
10. Encourage your child's school to change to healthier ways of eating. You have a say in your child's education as well as what he or she is fed when at school, so use that power to improve matters both for your own child and other children. Work with school officials to promote healthy food choices in the cafeteria and vending machines, and to develop ways for children to understand and appreciate the many benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Watch the Jamie Oliver show “Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution” and support him through his site on the ABC TV website
Remember that obese children are at a much greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease at an early age. In addition, they often experience even more serious health problems as they grow older – such problems include asthma, sleeping disorders as well as psychological issues too. Don't let that happen to your child.
Give him or her the best possible start in life by encouraging healthy lifestyles.