Childhood obesity is taking alarming proportions in many countries and represents a public health problem that must be urgently addressed, according to reports from the World Health Organization. UNICEF warned that Mexico is the main consumer of processed and sugary beverages in Latin America. Changes in lifestyle, both in regard to their eating habits and in relation to their physical activity, are causing serious health problems in our children and adolescents.
We cannot leave aside cultural aspects where the belief that a “chubby and chubby” child permeates is the representation of good health. Pediatrician Mary Rudolf, who is an advisor to the British government to prevent childhood obesity, says that many parents do not know that “the ribs of a healthy 10-year-old should be clearly visible” so the idea that a child robust is a healthy child is something that we must modify in our mind.
Before mentioning the fundamental ideas to promote a healthy weight in our children, we invite you to answer the following questions to evaluate nutritional and lifestyle habits at home.
- Do you and your family consume between 5 and 7 servings of vegetables daily?
- Do you avoid the consumption of sugary drinks and / or fruit juices?
- Do they do any kind of physical activity or exercise 3-5 times a week?
- Do adults at home lead by example by following a healthy lifestyle in terms of eating, physical activity, and sleeping habits?
If you answered No to one or more of the questions, it is important that you take into account the advice that we will give you below to maintain a healthy weight in your children.
The words convince but the example drags. One of the best ways to make your child eat well is for you to do it too; a child with one or both obese parents has a greater chance of developing obesity than those who have a healthy weight. Making healthy eating a family habit will make the journey easier for children. Please avoid comments in front of your children such as: “Don’t give me herbs because I’m not a cow.” Remember you are the role model.
Encourage physical activity and exercise. Get at least 1 hour of exercise 3-5 times a week. It is very helpful to maintain a healthy weight. To this you can add, promote physical activity, choosing to walk instead of using the car,use the stairs instead of the elevator, so that the slogan is to move more. Taking time away from electronic devices and games that keep children sedentary is vital within this change in habits. Again, when it comes to activity and exercise, example is important.
Eat in a healthy way. Eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables, eat and combine all food groups in a balanced way, avoid the consumption of sugary drinks and fruit juices, avoid the consumption of processed foods and fast food high in fat and sodium. In general, you can consult the plate of good eating, which gives you an idea of the correct combination of the food groups.
Take care of the children’s portions. In many families – without realizing it – children are served portions that are too large for their age. There are few guidelines for serving children, so serving small portions is preferable and serving more if you’re hungry. It is important to mention that it is vital to teach children to eat slowly and to learn to identify when enough is enough.
Prevent food from becoming a psychological manipulation game. The anguish that some parents express at the lack of appetite of their children leads them to offer them anything as long as they eat, causing an increase in the intake of unhealthy foods, in addition to an imbalance in the consumption of different food groups . Avoid using desserts or foods rich in sugar and fat as a reward or punishment: “If you don’t eat everything, there won’t be dessert” or vice versa. Taking the emotional load off the act of eating will allow your child to enjoy a healthy diet instead of looking for gratification in food that will lead to serious health problems in the long run.
When it comes to food, talking to your children is important. Aisling Pigott, a pediatric nutritionist and spokesperson for the British Nutrition Society says it is important to “talk openly and honestly with children about food as a positive thing.” It is important to remove the focus from the body image, avoid saying phrases like: “How chubby you are” or “you already see the little fish.” Better focus on the healthy lifestyle that both you, how your children choose and must follow. Boosting self-esteem is a good tool for stabilizing eating habits, Pigott says.
As you may have realized, helping your children to have a healthy weight is a family matter, so changing your lifestyle as a family will not only contribute to a healthy life for your children, but it will also benefit you personally. It is time to start, make a healthy lifestyle a habit and in no time you will enjoy positive results.