Indian parents often find it challenging to maintain a balance when it comes to providing nutrition to their children. As kids can be fussy eaters, encouraging them to eat healthy and more of homemade foods can be a task. Moreover, the easy availability of junk foods and sugary drinks has made it easier for calories and unhealthy fats to get into your child's diet. So, it is no surprise that childhood obesity has emerged as a major health concern in growing kids. The problem with obesity is that, if left unchecked, it can lead to lifestyle diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and even poor self-esteem, in your child's future.
So, measuring your child's BMI or body fat is important. It is obtained by dividing the weight by the square of height. And body fat percentile helps you to compare your kid's body fat with others of the same age and gender. So, if your child has a BMI of 85th percentile or above, he or she is at a high risk of being overweight or obese. Take action by inculcating healthy eating habits in your child, encouraging him or her to stay active, and following these tips:
- Teach your kids about the right portion sizes and ask them to restrict the quantities of junk food like burgers, fries, and pizzas.
- Add lots of fresh vegetables whenever you cook noodles to make it nutritious. Try using whole wheat pasta instead of pasta made from refined flour.
- Ensure your child is drinking enough water. This will make them feel full, thus curbing their urge to reach out for a sugary, fatty snack.
- Offer them a fruit or a vegetable as a snack instead of ice cream or chips. Apple slices with peanut butter or Greek yoghurt are healthy alternatives of packaged snacks.
- Make playing hours (at least an hour) a priority for your kids. This is important for both their physical and mental development. Kids get bored of doing the same things so include a variety of physical activities like dancing, skipping, etc.
- Limit their screen time to about 30 to 60 minutes each day. Encourage your children to go out and play instead of watching TV all day.
- Focus on maintaining good health rather than weight loss. Promote healthy eating habits and help your child develop a positive attitude towards physical activity. This will automatically bring down their weight to a normal level.
- Involve the whole family in promoting good eating habits and physical activity in kids, as children learn by imitating elders around them.
- Eat meals and snacks together as a family and avoid watching TV during meals, as this will help kids focus on the taste, flavour, colour and texture of the food.
- Do not allow your kids to eat snacks or meals while they watch TV as this might prevent them from feeling satiated and may lead to overeating.
- Do not deprive kids of fatty and sugary foods completely as this will only increase their cravings. Make sure that you give them occasional treats. They can have all kinds of foods in moderation.
- Involve kids in planning, preparing and shopping for meals. This way, you will be able to understand their preferences and teach them about nutrition.
- Avoid giving them too much fruit juice as these have high sugar and calories. Instead, give them whole fruits as these will provide fibre.
- Encourage them to eat slowly by chewing their food properly, as this will promote satiety.
- Help your child understand patterns if he or she eats when bored, sad or lonely. Help them recognise real hunger.
- Do not use food as a reward or punishment. This establishes an unhealthy relationship with food.
Every child is born with a unique body structure. So just assuming that they are overweight should not be the only reason to tweak their diet. Putting kids on drastic weight loss diets is not advisable as they are still growing, and a restrictive diet may hamper this process. Always take the help of a healthcare professional to assess the child’s height and weight and take their growth history into account as well.
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