25 February, 2022
In this fast moving world, we seek a lifestyle that is more adaptive and easy. Little do we realize that every short cut we take or quick fix we do, there is a risk that we are bringing in for us. A few years ago, little did we know that we will stand in a space where Obesity will take over our children. Today obesity is very common in children and it’s surprising to see that parents overlook obesity and think the child is healthy. Lets understand this better, “Obesity is not normal, it’s a serious health concern. It is the starting point of many serious ailments.” So as parents it’s important one makes smart choices to prevent obesity beforehand rather than trying to control it later.
Below are some quick pointers that will help prevent childhood obesity and help you present your child a better lifestyle.
Inculcate wiser eating habits:
Have you heard the quote, “you are what you eat”. This suits a child more than us as adults. Early life food plays a vital role in building one’s body. The kind of food we eat as children will help us either make or break our body, so it’s important we choose our childs food wisely. Plan the meals at regular intervals with balanced nutrition. Also, it’s very important that we understand how our child’s body reacts to different kinds of food. Just because certain food items are healthy do not force your child to consume them but we can find interesting healthy alternatives. Remember, habits start at a very early age in life, ensure, mindful eating is a habit we inculcate in our children.
We can start with small things like eating fruits and vegetables at the dining table as a family, it can be a great bonding time.
Take your child to the grocery store/market where you pick up your weekly vegetables, let them see the colorful vegetables and feel their texture. This way they will connect well with the food they eat. They need to understand the source of their day to day meal.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day so lets avoid packed/preserved food and cook energy packed traditional food for our children.
The next time you visit your friend’s house, instead of carrying fried chips and chocolate bars, carry a variety of locally sourced assorted fruits.
Discuss with your child the consequences of unhealthy food habits, they need to know before its too late.
A cheat meal is always allowed, once in a while let the child indulge in food that we can junk.
Water is a true miracle:
60% of our body is water and it’s important our children understand how essential is water for any life to sustain. Water when consumed in adequate quantity flushes out toxin from the body and the child feels energized. Water improves metabolism and also helps in keeping the muscles healthy. Every child is different and the quantity of water required for every child varies, so, let’s not try ‘one size fits all method’ with our children.
Have a set routine at home for water intake – within the first 15 minutes after waking up, 45 minutes before meal times, 45 minutes after meal time, 1 hour before bedtime. The pattern can be anything but set in a pattern that becomes a habit.
Pack a bottle of water every time the child steps out of the house. When they are out and playing, when you go on a drive, when the child goes to his/her friend’s house. This way once the child is home you can monitor the amount of water intake.
Have competitions at home, pretend to compete with your child. I’m sure your son/daughter will enjoy the process and also drink enough water.
We all agree that a balanced meal is a complete meal, but how do we know when to stop? When it comes to children they most of the time know when to stop, but it’s parents who force them to eat a little more. That little extra food that you force down your child’s throat is doing no good. Instead, break the meals into potions. Categorize them into meals, snacks, fruits, salads, juices and plan them evenly throughout the day. If the child is slowing down after a meal then it’s important you pay attention to the quality and quantity of food the child is consuming. Food is energy to the body and it is very important we plan that wisely. Do not encourage children to eat in front of the Television, they end up binge eating and it is very unhealthy.
Physical activity is a must:
Children are full of life & energy and it is very important that we help them channelize it the right way. Going out in the open and playing with fellow children will help the individual child to develop mentally & physically. Allow them to pick up a game of their choice, it can be tennis, badminton, cricket, basketball, or even cycling. Let them go out and sweat it out. On a given day parents also can engage the child with physical activities, it will help nurture the bond between the parent and the child.
The best way to do things is by being their role models, playing a game of badminton with the child, visiting a nearby park and walking/jogging together, plan a 30 minute family yoga time. Remember, the child learns from what they see, so it’s important we set the right example. If you are a couch potato don’t expect your child to be Usain Bolt, so, let’s get set to go!
Screen time a culprit:
Welcome to the world of technology where everything is available at your doorstep with a click of a button. While we are grateful to all the good that the technology brings, we need to keep a watch on its side effects too. Children browsing through tablets & mobiles has become a common sight in every home, but is it a good thing? the answer is a straight no. Zero screen time is something that we don’t recommend but let there be restrictions. Now with schools going online screen time is unavoidable, but we can take preventive measures. Longer screen time with inappropriate content and binge eating on junk food is the most unhealthy practice and let’s not allow our children to get there.
Substitute screen time with family time, go out for a walk or engage in conversations with your child.
Avoid unwanted screen time and encourage children to watch product content and restrict the time.
Plan a routine:
Children adapt things easily so let’s get a routine planned for them, in fact, it can be a routine that the family follows so that the child adapts to it much easier. We know that a child’s attention span is very short so plan the routine wisely. Club it with small activities, meal breaks, study time and reward them with screen time when they behave like good children. You know your child better so plan things accordingly. Please ensure that nothing is forced onto the child, it has to be an acceptance and allow your child to take that time. Regular activities like mealtime, sleep schedule can be a family routine, remember this way the child finds it easy to adapt.
Keep a check on the child’s BMI:
BMI or Body Mass Index is a scale that compares your body weight to your height and in turn, helps calculate the fat percentage of your body. In children, a BMI percentile helps compare your child’s BMI to others of the same age and gender. If your child’s BMI is 85th percentile or above they are at risk of being overweight or obese.
Don’t panic, this can be fixed and our Doctors at SPARSH will help you and your child overcome this the right way. Obesity can be because of multiple reasons, it can be hereditary, overeating, weak metabolism, lack of physical movement. Whatever the reason is, our team at SPARSH will help you with personalized consultation and support.
This blog has been written by Dr. Sanjay D Swamy, Chief Paediatric Intensivist
Category: Women & Children