One in five children leave primary school obese. But what is also worrying is that a lot of parents do not know if their child is obese, implying that being overweight may have become the norm. With so many children now suffering from obesity what can parents do to ensure that their child maintains a healthy weight?
Many experts say that if you want your child to eat healthily then you as a parent need to be healthy. Research has found that by 8 if a girl’s mother is obese then she will also be obese. In boys they are 6 times more likely to be obese if the father is.
It makes sense that if the family eats healthy food and is active then the children will follow that role model.
The latest research suggests that even as young as seven many children stop exercise and take to sitting activities like watching TV and playing computer games. The official recommendation is that children should have 60 minutes of exercise each day. If your child is overweight they don’t need to do more than this as they should burn more calories for the same activity.
You can do simple things here to help. Walking to school is good, as are sports clubs after school and at weekends. So try to encourage your child to try different clubs and see what they enjoy the most.
Do watch how much sugar your child is taking in each day. Ensure that they eat as much fruit and vegetables as you can. Do watch smoothies and sugary drinks. When fruit is blended or juiced it releases the sugars that increase the risk of tooth decay. The maximum amounts of sugar each day for children is as follows. 4-6 years is 19g of sugar, 7-10 years old is 24g of sugar and over 11 they should have a maximum of 30g of sugar. It may be worth bearing in mind that 1 can of coke has more than 30g of sugar in it.
Many people say that their children eat healthily but are still obese. It may be that your child is eating too much. For young children avoid adult size plates as that can encourage you to give them an adult size portion. Children should have smaller servings than adults eat and should not have to finish everything on the plate. Also, set meal times and try if possible to eat as a family.
Poor sleep is also associated with obesity. Research has suggested that those children who have less sleep when they are young have a higher body mass index by the age of 7. Lack of sleep affects the part of the brain that makes decisions. So poor sleep could encourage our children to make poor decisions about what they eat. Screens in the bedroom, whether they are televisions, mobile phones or I pads do interrupt sleep so remove any screens from your child’s bedroom.
If you are concerned about your child’s weight ensure they get sleep, eat healthily and exercise. But do encourage them, using positive words and encouragement. Try not to use words like fat and ugly, sad children with low self-esteem could just eat more. Everyone has a different shape and look, what is important is that your child is healthy and eats well with plenty of exercise. Keep reinforcing that and support them in every way you can.