It has been suggested that today's parents will be the first generation to out live their children due to the growing problem of child obesity. With over 20% of children (and increasing) classed as overweight, child obesity is a problem for many parents across the UK. Therefore, what can be done about helping your child staying within a healthy weight range for their height and age?
Should I put my child on a diet?
Should we allow children to diet if they are overweight? Of course! But this doesn't mean crash dieting, yo-yo dieting or losing weight using some of the extreme weight loss programmes popularised by celebrities or slimming companies. Simply replacing high sugar foods and snacks will dramatically aid the weight loss of your child. This means replacing sugary breakfast cereals for healthier options, including porridge, wholemeal toast or eggs, stopping the consumption of fizzy drinks like Pepsi, Coke, lemonade etc and substituting ready meals and snacks high in sugar, fat and salt with wholesome meals that include an amount of lean meat (chicken, beef, lamb, pork), vegetables and a small amount of carbohydrates (wholemeal bread, beans etc.)
Also, if you child eats school dinners and you're not sure what they are buying, you could always substitute their school dinners with a healthy pack lunch which includes sandwiches, fruit and low sugar drinks.
Will exercise help my child lose weight?
Exercise may help a child lose weight ONLY if their diet is healthy. Exercise alone has been shown to make no difference in the weight of children or adults when used without dietary changes. That said, with many children (approximately 50%) of children leading a sedentary lifestyle and with most schools children performing less than 2 hours of PE or games per week, extra exercise should play a part in a child's daily lives.
This might be via organised team sports like netball, football, rugby etc or simply by running, jumping and playing at playtimes or afterschool, visiting the local gym for swimming or junior gym sessions, riding their bikes or going for family walks. Of course this is easier said than done due to the numerous sedentary distractions children face with video games, social networking, internet use and TV.
Getting fit as a family
Children will always take the lead from their parents, so if you smoke, drink a little too much and are overweight, the likelihood is that your children will follow suit. So, if you're worried about the health and weight of your offspring, make sure you're setting a good example by eating healthily, exercising and encouraging your children to do the same by offering them opportunities to taste a variety of wholesome foods and try a wide range of fitness activities.