By Gina Grant
Obesity in children is becoming a problem; in fact it has reached epidemic levels. Sadly, fifteen percent (or more) of overweight children, become overweight adults, leaving them with the ongoing battle of weight-loss for a lifetime. As parents, it is up to us to educate and gently guide them toward better choices, without letting them feel deprived and singled out as an oddity amongst their friends.
We all know the old saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and nothing could be so true when it comes to children. The Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Philadelphia and Baltimore conducted studies which confirmed that statement; children who ate breakfast on a regular basis had better test scores, improved behaviour, and were less hyperactive than their counterparts who consistently skipped breakfast.
Children who eat sugary breakfast cereals, white, floury pancakes, white toast and jam type breakfasts tend to eat more at lunch. Low-sugary breakfast cereals, such as muesli, and bran flakes already have sugar in them, so there is no need to add extra from the sugar pot.
As our children go back to school, it becomes harder to control their food intake. School canteens, local kiosks and nearby shops do nothing to help in the fight for health and fitness. Those with younger children may find it easier as these children tend to take a lunch box, allowing you to have control over what you put inside. Remember that breaks do not usually last very long, plus the child wants time to play with friends too, so make sure you pack things that are easy to eat, easily opened and fun. For older children who simply take money, it becomes more difficult. As parents, we are well aware that the last people our children want to listen to is us! However, persevere as educating them on the benefits of health and nutrition is something that will last them a lifetime and they will appreciate in later years (we hope!)
If you enjoy eating out on a regular basis, take at look at the restaurants you are choosing to frequent. Do they have dishes on the menu that will work with your new-found commitment? Take a good look at the menu and think about what you are ordering. Do you really need a starter, main meal and dessert? There are many things you can do, as a family, to help cut calories and fat and still have fun; have soup and salad – and share the dessert!
If your child is overweight then you need to take a look at what he or she is eating and drinking over a few days. Learning how to read food labels is a huge help. Always check the serving size stated on the label. The amount of calories stated refers not to the whole packet but to a certain number of what is in the packet. You could easily be fooled into thinking a packet of mini crackers has only 145 calories, but what that refers to is only 6 of them – not the whole pack.
Staying motivated can be a challenge. Learning the fundamentals of healthy choices and setting goals as a family can bring you together. You as the parent have to set the example by eating a variety of different foods, while still taking time to indulge, but with the understanding that treats are not treats if they occur on a daily basis.
Every now and then take an objective look at what you are doing and see if there is anything else you can do to ensure your family is on a healthy path that makes life enjoyable, fun and oh so very tasty….