Obesity is a precursor of many critical medical conditions in all age groups but child obesity is more dangerous since it causes high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases in very early ages and musculoskeletal disorders later. Changing patterns of food consumption and sedentary lifestyles have spiked obesity statistics worldwide.
According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), there were 32 million obese children in 1990 worldwide, and the number rose to 41 million by 2016. The report also predicts that this number will go up to 70 million by the year 2025. WHO suggests that lack of awareness about nutrition is the fundamental reason behind growing child obesity.
Pakistan is also facing the same challenge, like other countries. In 2016, WHO published a report on mortality in Pakistan, which shows that 20.8% of the Pakistani population is overweight while 4.8% are suffering from obesity. Unfortunately, the conditions are not very different when it comes to child obesity exclusively.
A study conducted for school going children in Karachi showed that 19.1% children of the total sample (between the ages of 11-15) were overweight while 10.8% were obese. Without an intervention, obese children are likely to remain obese in their adult life.
Obesity in childhood requires urgent attention. It is thus important to be conscious of your child’s eating habits and lifestyle early on. If you observe obesity trends within your kids, here are the five areas to investigate.
1. Follow a Diet Plan
As we noted earlier, the best way to avoid obesity is to maintain a balanced diet, and the same trick works for children too. According to Ms. Asma Zulfiqar, a nutritionist in Lahore, a balanced diet is critical for a child’s health.
“It is crucial for a child’s health that he/she consumes all nutrition groups. The total number of calories should be balanced out. A child’s diet should consist of plenty of vegetables and whole grains. Lean meat should also be given in moderate amounts. Not more than 30% of the calories should come from fat.”
For the diet conscious parents, she advises that they should take care of the kid’s growth and diets right from the age 2. “After the age of 2, shifting from whole milk to low fat or skimmed is ideal if your child is obese.”
2. Control Unhealthy Snacking
One primary reason for obesity among children is unhealthy snacks. Children are drawn to sweets and carbonated drinks. If these products are taken every day and in large amounts, results can be drastic. It is the parents’ job to monitor the intake of high sugar, salt, and fat products.
Fruit is nature’s candy. It can be a very good alternative to artificial desserts. Get your children in the habit of eating fruits as snacks. Bananas, apples, grapes, and berries are ideal as they are both healthy and sweet.
3. Engage in Physical Activities
A sedentary lifestyle can be a primary cause of child obesity. It is thus important to introduce him/her to physical activities. One way to ensure physical activity is the encouragement of outdoor games. You can even have your child learn a sport formally. Swimming, dancing or soccer can really keep your child active and healthy. Family walks or jogs can also be a good idea.
4. Monitor Binging
Technology is everywhere. Children are introduced to smartphones and televisions at a very early age. A disadvantage of this situation is that children most of their time indoors in front of a screen.
Watching television or playing over a smartphone while eating promotes the habit of binging. The child is so distracted that he/she is not able to monitor their own appetite. It is important to limit the time your child spends in front of a screen. Mealtime should always be screen free.
5. Monitor Eating Habits
During childhood, the children are in the process of developing eating habits. Serving appropriate portions to them during this time is important. If your child does not finish the whole plate, do not force him/ her. He/she is probably full, and if you push them, they will develop the habit of over-eating.
As a parent, you should not make food a reward for anything because that produces gluttony. As a result, your child can become obsessed with food. Let your child eat to their full, just make sure the food is healthy.
Obesity is a menace which gradually takes over a person’s health and ultimately his/her life. For cases where the child is already suffering from obesity, it is essential to find the best child specialists and seek professional advice.
The measures listed above are just add-on to advise you on certain areas that experts advise; however, they should not be treated as a replacement for the professional advice by a doctor.