In the past few years, information on childhood obesity seems to be everywhere. The reason for this is because of the frightening rate at which the number of obese children is growing. Society is essentially trying hard to react to a worsening problem that is spreading to almost epidemic proportions.
There are four main steps all parents must take in order to prevent childhood obesity in their children.
Abolish soft drinks from the diet
One of the biggest problems in children's diets today is that of carbonated soft drinks. Because of the fact that there is absolutely no nutritional value in these drinks, it is crucial that they are eliminated from the diet. This is specifically recommended by doctors and nutritionists as an important factor in combating the epidemic of childhood obesity that has become a reality of the modern era.
Elimination of these drinks from your child's diet may be a difficult process, depending upon age and the amount of consumption. If the child is at an age where he or she does not yet make a choice in what is consumed, then the process is easy. This is where you simply stop giving these drinks to the child, replacing them with more healthy alternatives. Where children are old enough to help themselves, it is important to ensure that no soft drinks are available. Stock your refrigerator with low-fat milk, water, or fruit juices made from real fruit.
Remember that you are a role model for your child and therefore, it is important that you lead by example in your choice of nutritious drinks both at home and when dining out.
By creating a soft drink free environment at home and teaching your child about healthyier alternatives, you can help to change the thought processes. This is only one step but that step can go a long way toward helping your child to achieve or maintain a healthy weight.
Restrict fast food
For children who are already showing signs of obesity, it is best to completely eliminate things such as hamburgers, fried chicken, chips, milkshakes and other fattening products from fast food restaurants. However, if this has been part of the child's routine, it may be difficult. Although scientific literature gives no specific recommendations, it is believed among nutritional experts that fast food is acceptable on a once per week basis.
It is not necessary to totally eliminate takeaway food from the diet but rather to help the child to make healthier choices. Many fast food restaurants are now listening to public opinion and providing a healthier range of food rather than just the traditional range that they are renamed for.
To totally eliminate fast food would be unrealistic as there is also a social connection, particularly in the older children. Often this is a meeting place for friends and it would be hard for the child to resist temptation. It is crucial therefore, that parents ensure their child understands how the traditional fast foods contribute to obesity.
Limit television viewing
It would be unrealistic to think of eliminating television from your child's life not to mention deprivation. There are many programs on television these days that are beneficial to your child's development. However, it is important to limit television viewing as well as other technology such as DVDs and internet.
Child rearing professionals advocate no television at all for children under two and no more that two hours per day for children over two. This also applies to other media technology although internet surfing for homework purposes could have been exempt. Remember also that if your child is spending a lot of time on the internet, it is important to have internet security software for their protection.
Another way of restricting television viewing is to only have a television in the family room rather than allowing your child to have one in the bedroom.
Dinner time is for enjoying the meal and also for enjoying the company and closeness of family. Turn the television off to promote conversation.
Promote physical activity
One of the great regrets of our modern age is the lack of activity of our children. Imaginative play has been replaced by media technology which induces sedentary lifestyles. Our children should all be physically active every day. This can take the form of play, sport, physical education, walking to school or shops, community activities, or any other activity that requires a level of physical exertion.
Pre-school children should be engaging in a minimum of three sessions each week of physical activities that last more than twenty minutes at a time and that require moderate to varying levels of exertion. This should increase as the child gets older. As the child reaches school age, this activity should be reaching around 30 minutes to an hour of physical activity on all or most days of the week.
These recommendations will be difficult at first for the child who has been inactive so do not expect results too quickly. Aim for fun activities with siblings or parents at first. Things such as playing a game of tag or going for a family walk in the park are better than doing nothing and will be beneficial to everyone. Gradually increase the activity during these outings. If done in a fun atmosphere, the child will look forward to these activities and it will become a natural way of life.
Looking to the Future
Unfortunately, obese children often grow up to be obese adults. They are then likely to suffer diseases attributable to this obesity and the economic costs to the community are substantive.
It is there in everyone's interests for measures such as the abolition of soft drinks and fatty fried foods, sweets and chips and any other obesity producing foods to be banned from school tuck shops and in other areas where children frequently purchase foods. Advocating for our children's health and for the future of this generation is of the utmost importance.