To avoid childhood obesity, parents and caretakers need to help children develop healthy eating habits.
During the past two decades, the prevalence of overweight and obesity in children globally has increased from 4.8% to 6.1% and the total number doubled from 5.4 to 10.3 million. As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, there has been a sizable increase in obesity among children due to the prolonged time out-of-school.
Besides that, other causes of childhood obesity are poor eating habits, lack of physical activity, genetics and lifestyle habits from infancy to teenage years. Studies have shown that breastfed children are less likely to become obese, and the longer they are breastfed, the lesser their chances of obesity.
It is important to note that childhood obesity is harder to fight off in comparison to obesity in adulthood but most importantly, it poses immediate and future health risks. Given the chronic conditions (risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease) that stem from being obese, and the fact that obesity is hard to treat, prevention is extremely important to note.
Other problems that can occur due to childhood obesity include glucose control impairment leading to early-onset type 2 diabetes, breathing problems like sleep apnea (a sleep disorder), and a greater risk of psycho-social problems like poor self-esteem.
To avoid childhood obesity, parents and caretakers should help children develop healthy eating habits by;
- Providing plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products.
- Include low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products like cheese and yoghurt to their diet.
- Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils, and beans for protein.
- Encourage the family to drink a lot of water.
- Limit sugary drinks.
- Limit consumption of sugar and saturated fat.
This goes hand in hand with preventing poor eating habits that include;
- Consumption of high-calorie foods in the home.
- Paying attention to their appetite. They don’t always have to finish their food or empty their cups or bottles.
- Refraining from buying snacks with a lot of sodium and drinks with extra sugar.
- Rewarding children for good deeds with sweets (candy, desserts or drinks)
Encourage children to stay active
Physical activity among children does not only burn calories to prevent childhood obesity but also helps to strengthen their bones, improve blood pressure, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase self-esteem. It also stimulates and helps them improve their learning abilities.
Reduce sedentary time
This includes screen time which includes time spent in front of a TV or computer, with a mobile phone in your hands. It’s discouraged for children below 2 years to watch TV and screen time for more than 2 hours. Children should be encouraged to engage in outdoor activities with peers and adults as this increases their metabolism.
Staying awake for longer hours means that the child is probably up watching something or snacking. Inadequate amounts of sleep among children don’t allow for sufficient growth because the growth hormone is released in a phase of sleep known as the non-REM sleep. This phase happens after a child has been asleep for a minimum of 3 hours. Children need more sleep than adults and the particular amount of sleep needed varies by age. Overall, it should not be less than 8 hours.
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