It is an alarming fact that the number of overweight and obese children and teenagers is continuously rising in developing countries.

Reducing this statistic and reversing weight gain in children must be the ultimate goal to safeguard the health of future generations and ensure proper growth and development.

Parents can help prevent childhood obesity in many ways.

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Firstly, they must start making healthy lifestyle choices themselves.

Healthy choices will help reduce health related conditions. Nutrition education in children needs to be started early.

The development of healthy eating habits is essential to help children grow and develop properly. Obesity increases the risk of serious health problems in all ages. By changing them, it will help reduce these risks.

Encourage the child to eat their five-a-day of fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, lean sources of protein (e.g. meat, poultry, fish) and vegetarian protein sources such as lentils and beans and low-fat dairy products.

Also choose normal food portions rather than big servings.

This is equally important to help prevent obesity. Encourage them to drink lots of water, limit the soft drinks including those with sweeteners and limit the consumption of saturated fats and trans fats and sugar which are massive contributors to weight gain, obesity and diabetes.

Engage the child in planning and preparation the family’s meals. Even young children can help with washing the vegetables and fruits. Try to eat as much as possible all together at the table.

Apart from the nutrition education, it is recommended children to do about an hour of physical activity on daily basis and reduce the time watching TV, playing video and computer games.

Ways to prevent childhood obesity2

Good exercise choices can be simple: playing outside, cycling or hiking with the whole family, chores like washing the car hepling with the gardening, then there’s dance classes, martial arts, football, etc.

You don’t have to ban the TV or anything like that (which might cause resentment and rebellion) but maybe restrict to two hours or less every day.

Try to avoid using food as punishment or reward.

Children need to know that mostly all the foods that have a place in a healthy diet and be aware of those high in sugar and fat and low in nutritional value which should be eaten occasionally.

Also avoid commenting on a child’s weight.

Try to focus on healthy lifestyle changes and make sure children don’t fixate on negatives and end up developing early body related self-esteem issues.

Don’t wait to see that your child is obese.

Schedule examinations with the paediatrician and nutritionist, answer possible questions, address your concerns and monitor your child’s growth (e.g. height, weight, and body mass index – BMI), to make sure it is all within healthy range.

Numerous studies have shown that children who regularly get less than the recommended number of sleeping hours are at higher risk of being overweight.

Generally, school-aged children need about 10 hours of sleep every night. Younger children need about 12 hours and adolescents need about 9 hours.

Talk with a health care professional, such as a registered nutritionist or dietitian about developing a healthy and well-balanced diet for your child. In the event that you feel their nutritional requirements are not being met, discuss for a specific formulation of supplements covering the child needs.

Children shouldn’t be placed on a weight loss plan without first consulting a healthcare professional.

Last but not least, inform older children about the dangers of fasting, laxatives and excessive diets to lose weight.

Pills that promise to lose weight fast might well be dangerous and they can never be a safer and more sensible approach than simple food, activity and behaviour management.

Whenever you have questions and concerns, consult and a qualified healthcare provider.

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