Top 7 tips to tackle childhood obesity

As it is National Obesity Awareness Week, we are delighted to share with you this contributing article by founder and mother of one Amanda Frolich from Amanda Action Club. During the festive period she also shared ways on keeping kids active during the festive season, you can read it here.

It all boils down to common sense. To help your child ­maintain a healthy weight you need to balance the calories your child consumes with those they use through physical activity and normal growth.
“So you need to encourage them to be healthy and active from an early age.
If your child is overweight, there are some simple steps you can take to help them get back on track. But remember, the goal is to reduce the rate at which they gain weight while maintaining normal growth and ­development”.

“Children and teenagers should not be placed on a weight-reducing diet without advice of a doctor or healthcare provider.
“Your child’s health is more important than anything else you do, including your job, so it is time we started to make it our priority.”

Here are Amanda’s tips for helping your children stay healthy & slim:

  1. Encourage your kids to be active
    Run around with your children. Children are living less active lives – many prefer to stay indoors and watch television or play computer games than go to the park.
    A new Ofcom study showed kids as young as three are spending four hours a day in front of a screen. Children should be doing an hour of exercise each day. But that doesn’t have to be done all in one go – activity can be spread out through a day.
    “There are lots of fun ways for children to get the exercise they need without even realising it,” says Amanda. “Children love kicking and chasing a ball. They also love to be chased. “My personal favourite is music. As soon as you play music to a child they want to get up and move around to the beat. Turn it into limbo dancing using a broom.
    “And you should join in to encourage your children wherever possible.
    “The motto is, children dance better when adults dance with them,” she says.
    “At the playground challenge them to play on as many pieces of equipment as possible with 30 second bursts of activity on each.
    “Walk, scooter or cycle with them to school. Or if you have to drive, park the car ten minutes away from the gates and walk the rest of the way.”
  2. Teaching children to cook.

This gives them good habits to carry into adulthood. Cook from fresh, whenever you can.
It may take longer and be more ­expensive, but cooking with fresh ­ingredients is a great way to give your children a good diet. And supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl make it more ­affordable. Encouraging children to cook along with you can also teach them habits they will carry into adulthood. “I used to sit my daughter on the worktop while I was cooking and get her to taste the fresh ingredients before they went into the pan,” says Amanda.
“Get children to hold the food and appreciate the different colours and textures so they are more open to trying healthy foods. If you don’t expose your children to these fresh ingredients, they might become fussy eaters and reject them later on in life.
Give three healthy choices rather than just one. They are more likely to choose between a carrot, tangerine or a handful of grapes rather than one carrot stick! And reward them if they have eaten their 5 a day!”

3.Make sure they drink enough water.
Drinking water can help control appetite – but don’t let them drink too much at mealtimesDrinking water can help you lose weight by controlling your appetite. Many people, and it’s the same for children, mistake thirst for hunger. Being dehydrated also makes it harder for your body to break down fat cells. But don’t let your children drink too much water at mealtimes as it can fill them up and stop them eating their dinner. It also dilutes digestive juices, making it harder to break down food. “A child’s body is made up of 75% water, but I find they only drink it when they are thirsty,” says Amanda. “Teach you children that staying hydrated throughout the day is important for their bodies. Encourage them to take sips regularly, as your body will hold it better than if you gulp it.”
Square eyes

4. Limit how much screen time you give your kids.
Children who spend more than two hours each day watching television or a computer screen are 30% more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, a recent study in the Journal of Cardiology found. Strictly limit how much time your child spends watching TV or using computers and tablets. “It’s so easy for a parent to put their children in front of the television while they cook tea, but it’s not helping because they will become addicted,” says Amanda. “The YouTube phenomenon is a growing problem too. I never go to a supermarket now without seeing a child sitting in their pram staring at an iPad. “All those websites and apps might seem like an easy and convenient way to entertain and stimulate your child, but it’s a bad idea.”

5. Ensure they get enough sleep.
Pre-schoolers need 10-14 hours sleep a night. Experts recommend pre-school children get 10 to 14 hours of sleep every night, while primary school kids should aim for at least nine hours. Many children don’t get enough sleep and are chronically tired, which means their bodies burn less fat and they are likely to consume more calories.
A simple way to address this is to set a strict bedtime – and do not send a child to bed hungry. “Parents give children too many snacks throughout the day, so when it comes to tea-time they aren’t really hungry and don’t finish their food,” says Amanda.
“By the time they go to bed they are feeling hungry again, so they aren’t getting enough sleep.”

6. Make sure they eat breakfast.
Children who don’t eat breakfast put on weight faster than those that do. This really is the most important meal of the day. It stimulates your metabolism so your body starts burning calories. And it can stop you reaching for unhealthy snacks later in the day. “Children who aren’t eating breakfast put on weight faster than those children who are, because as soon as the body does eat something at lunch time, it is automatically holding onto those calories because it doesn’t know when it’s going to get fed again,” says Amanda. “Eggs are full of protein and keep them fuller longer as does oatmeal, so serve porridge with blueberries.”

7. Cut the snacks

Junk food should be a rare treat. “Sweets, fizzy drinks and junk food should be a rare treat, not something children eat every day. A lot of parents say they hide the sweets. But I say don’t even have them in the house,” says Amanda.