10 ways to prevent your child from becoming overweight
With serious attention turned to children’s weight issues and childhood obesity these days, it can be difficult to maintain a clear perspective on your own family’s diet.
Squeezing in five portions of fruit and vegetables a day isn’t always easy (even for ourselves), so the following tips should help you take a balanced view of nutrition, lifestyle and exercise to improve your child’s health and prevent excessive weight gain.
1. Be a healthy role model
Remember your child imitates you and your habits. By adding physical activity and healthy eating into your own daily routine, you encourage your child to join you. It’s as simple as that.
2. Make good food fun
Connect healthy eating with having fun by inviting your child into the kitchen with you. Play games, conduct taste tests, make faces with food, or take them shopping and ask them to be your ‘special helper’, locating items at the greengrocers.
3. Don’t eliminate unhealthy food
Food should always be positive. By creating a 90/10 diet strategy (90 percent healthy food and 10 percent sweet treats), you’re teaching your child how to enjoy the not-so-healthy cakes, cookies and sweets in moderation.
4. Load up the fibre
Vegetables, fruit, beans, lentils and whole grains are perfect foods to fill up little tummies. Insoluble fibre takes longer to chew and provides volume without the heavy calories, while soluble fibre stabilises blood sugar levels - helping to ward off those sweet cravings.
5. Ditch the sugary drinks
Liquid calories can easily sneak into your child’s diet without you realising. Fruit juices, fizzy drinks and chocolate milk tend to be high in sugar and calories but low in nutrients - and they won’t fill your child up. Make it easy for them to drink lots of water by making sure they have a bottle to hand.
6. Simple swaps
There’s no denying that implementing a healthy eating plan can be met with fierce resentment and tantrums - and that’s just from your partner (we’re kidding). Try simple exchanges, such as swapping regular sugary yogurts for sugar-free Greek yogurt, making homemade alternatives to junk food favourites and buying healthy snack bars instead of chocolate. You’ll develop healthier taste buds while keeping the kids happy.
7. Make breakfast compulsory
Breakfast eaters tend to be slimmer than breakfast skippers: the first meal of the day kickstarts the body’s metabolism, reducing the temptation to make unhealthy snack choices later on in the day. Be wary of cereals with high sugar counts; instead serve up eggs, wholemeal bread and fruit for a filling and nutritious breakfast.
8. Develop an exercise regime
Aim for an hour of physical activity each day for good health, but remember this doesn’t need to be all at once. Encourage after-school sports, visit the park, go swimming take a family bike ride… anything goes. Even an impromptu game of hide-and-seek can get them up and moving.
9. Reduce screen time
It’s not easy dragging kids away from technology these days, but limiting the time they spend watching TV or playing video games (two hours a day max) can significantly improve sluggishness and make more time for physical activity.
10. Make sure they get enough sleep
Research has found a strong association between childhood obesity and a lack of sleep. Having TVs and mobile phones in their rooms weakens the way children associate the bedroom with sleeping. Making the bedroom a screen-free zone can help them wind down in the evening. Find out how much sleep children need (depending on their age) here.