The ever growing problem of childhood obesity is challenging community based and commercial organizations. The health care industry is very concerned about this “epidemic” because the cost of care for these children continues to rise, and will continue to increase as these children grow into adulthood. Across Canada, 1 in 4 children are considered overweight or obese according to the Ontario Medical Association. What can be done?
Family cycling together – staying fit and having fun!There are a variety of factors that contribute to obesity in children. These include genetic, environmental, behavioural and social issues. It’s not just a matter of over eating or under exercising or a lack of willpower and self control. However, if the problem is going to be addressed, it does come down to personal and family commitment to making a change.
So, what can you do if you have a child struggling with their weight? The approach I would recommend comes down to food, fitness and fun for the whole family. This could be a significant lifestyle shift but if you’re concerned about your child’s health, it shouldn’t be a big deal. Here are some tips.
- Avoid skipping meals, especially breakfast.
- Work on incorporating more home made meals into your diet instead of eating out or using heavily processed foods for major meals.
- Try to include foods from at least 3 of the four main food groups in each meal. Plan meals and snacks so you’re choosing a variety of nutritious, tasty foods.
- Limit the serving sizes of snacks and limit snacks to 1 or 2 per day. Choose things like fresh fruit and yogurt or cheese, a muffin or cereal with milk.
- Allow your child to enjoy their favourite foods in moderation.
Of course, exercise and overall activity level is equally important as how many calories your child consumes. We all know we should be more active for our general health and well being. Here are some activity suggestions.
- Encourage your child to aim for at least 30 minutes of vigorous activity 5 days a week.
- For family activities, choose a variety your family will enjoy.
- Choose activities that can be done from home like walking, cycling, hiking and playing games outdoors.
- Limit screen time (television, video games and computer time) to less than 2 hours per day.
- If your child has a television in their bedroom, remove it. A research study showed children with a TV in their room watched close to 5 hours more programming than those without.
- Exercise with your child and set a good example for them. Community or in home exercise programs are an ideal solution.
As you can see, dealing with childhood obesity requires a lifestyle change for the family. You can not expect your child to do everything on their own. Your role as a parent is to support your child’s change to a healthier lifestyle. Ultimately it will benefit your entire family for years to come.