Causes of Excess Weight in Children
As children grow, it is natural for their weight to increase. However, when weight gain becomes excessive, the child becomes overweight and this may result in the onset of obesity. Obesity is a condition where excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it can cause a variety of serious health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol.
For most people, obesity and overweight are caused by an energy imbalance which occurs over time. This means that the energy (calories) children get from the food and drinks consumed (known as energy INput) exceeds the energy (calories) used for daily activities (known as energy OUTput).
This energy imbalance is a result of excessive intake of food and drink, especially those high in fat, sugar and salt, as well as reduced physical activity.
Parents play an important role in shaping a healthy lifestyle and an energy balance for their children. Here are some tips to do just that.
Nurturing healthy eating habits
Provide regular meals. Ensuring that children have regular meals will prevent them from over-eating at others.
- Make healthier snack options available at home.
Avoid stocking up on snacks which are high in fat, sugar and salt at home as this may encourage unhealthy snacking among children. Provide healthier choices such as a fruit, carrot sticks, low-fat yoghurt or wholemeal sandwiches as alternative snacks.
- Look out for HCS.
When buying food and drinks from the supermarket, look out for the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS)-marked products. These have less fat, salt and sugar compared to other similar products.
- Avoid super-sized portions.
Do not offer children adult portions. Instead, give them what they need for the day.
- Give vegetables an interesting twist.
Getting children to eat their greens may not always be easy. Try cutting vegetables into different shapes and sizes. Use different vegetables to add colour to dishes. Apart from vegetables, also remember to let children enjoy the goodness of fruit.
Engaging children in an active lifestyle
“60 x 5” is what they need. In other words, children should have at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a day, on 5 or more days a week. Moderate-intensity activities are those which cause a slight increase in breathing and heart rate. Examples of these activities are brisk walking, cycling, swimming and dancing. If the 60-minute recommendation sounds daunting, do not worry because it can be broken up into shorter periods of 10-15 minutes each.
- Make physical activity part of the daily routine.
For instance, take the stairs instead of the lift. Take a walk to the supermarket instead of driving there or taking a bus.
- Variety. Variety. Variety.
Let children experience a variety of activities. This will allow them to find out more about different activities and help them discover their interest in one or some of them. Physical activities need not be limited to sports, they could even include exciting activities such as dance.
- Limit screen time.
Doing so will encourage children to engage in less sedentary behaviours and enable them to reap the benefits of regular physical activity. This will also help to limit their exposure to TV advertisements which promote food and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt. Such advertisements may influence their food choices and result in unhealthy eating.
The text of this article was originally published on the website of the Health Promotion Board. Reproduced with some modifications with permission from HPB.