Tips to improve the health of children
Approximately 10 percent of 4 and 5-year-old children are overweight, double that of what it was 20 years ago. Overweight is more prevalent in girls than boys and in older preschoolers (ages 4-5) than younger (ages 2-3).
Childhood obesity is now an epidemic in India. With 14.4 million obese children, India has the second-highest number of obese children in the world, next to China.
With post covid, the prevalence of overweight and obesity in children has shot by 15%. In private schools catering to upper-income families, the incidence has shot up to 35-40%, indicating a worrying upward trend.
One of the prime reasons for this is increased exposure to screen time. Be it for playing games, watching songs or videos or attending online school.
With schools opening up, one hopes these bad habits will break to some extent
How do I prevent my child from being overweight? Behaviour & Actions
- Be a Role Model. Children learn by primarily observing and imitating parents. You can’t tell a child to finish their veggies if they see their parents munch through a bag of fried chips & a box of sugar loaded sweets (especially when they are stressed out, hungry post work or craving for these high-dopamine foods in general!)
- Eat together as a family as much as possible. Establish daily meal and snack timings.
- Hydration is important. Encourage your child to drink water instead of drinks with added sugar. These include soft drinks, sports drinks, and fruit juices.
- Don't use food as a reward. Especially junk foods as rewards to children as it negatively associates a bad product with good behaviour.
- Avoid labelling foods as "good" or "bad." Research shows more than 27 per cent of total energy intake is due to unwanted snacking of chips and candies. This does not mean that the child is never allowed to enjoy crisps and sweets. But they should be taken as treats and included in moderation in the balanced diet.
Example a sugary treat can be replaced by dark chocolates or nut based chocolate bars.
You can check out the Foodrik's Sattu, Almonds and Oats Nutri Snack bar designed specially for children and their families.
How much is okay??
- Try to include healthy food options like omega 3 fatty acid rich food like seafood such as salmon and tuna, olive oil, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, soybean and walnuts. This will help to increase the efficiency of the child’s immune system.
- Parents should listen to their child if he/she is refusing to eat and should not force them to eat because they feel they are eating less. Interestingly children know how much they need to eat. When the parents force them to overeat repeatedly / eat junk, their body gets used to it and increase fat cells instead of muscle cells.
- Limit the screen time exposure to 1-2 hours in a day. Discourage eating meals or snacks while watching TV or iPads. Eating in front of the TV may make it difficult to pay attention to feelings of fullness and may lead to overeating.
- Get Moving! Encourage physical-play vs digital-play. There should be atleast 60 minutes of physical activity (which can be a mix of bone and muscle strengthening activities) like running, climbing, cycling, aerobics, swimming.
- On weekends, indulge in family physical activity time such as walks, bike rides, hikes, and active games.