Childhood obesity is a crisis. 1 in 4 of our children are obese by the time they leave primary school.
The projected financial cost of obesity to our City will amount to £2.6 billion per year by 2050 – that is the equivalent of 13.5 new Libraries of Birmingham.
Childhood obesity can lead to a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions in later life, such as:
- type 2 diabetes
- coronary heart disease
- some types of cancer, such as breast cancer and bowel cancer
- Obesity can also affect your quality of life and lead to psychological problems, such as low self-esteem or depression
So how can you help your child maintain a healthy weight?
- Be a good role model
One of the best ways to instil good habits in your child is for you to be a good role model. Children learn by example. One of the most powerful ways to encourage your child to be active and eat well is to do so yourself. Set a good example by going for a walk or bike ride instead of watching TV, or surfing the internet. Playing in the park or swimming with your children shows them that being active is fun. It’s also a great opportunity for you all to spend time together.
- Get active
Children need about 60 minutes of physical activity a day for good health, but it doesn’t need to be all at once. Several short 10-minute or even 5-minute bursts of activity throughout the day can be just as good as an hour-long stretch. Walking or cycling short distances instead of using the car or bus is a great way to be active together as a family – and you’ll save money too. Join a FREE ParkLives session in your local park.
- Prepare more meals at home.
It takes a little longer, but this way you can control what you put in food. You can read food labels, use healthier ingredients and control how much sugar and salt you use.
- Child-size portions
Try to avoid feeding your child over-sized portions. There’s very little official guidance on precisely how much food children require so you’ll need to use your own judgement. A good rule of thumb is to start meals with small servings and let your child ask for more if they are still hungry. Try not to make your child finish everything on the plate or eat more than they want to. And avoid using adult-size plates for younger children as it encourages them to eat oversized portions.
- Eat healthy meals
Children, just like adults, should aim to eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables everyday. They’re a great source of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Getting 5 A DAY shouldn’t be too difficult. Almost all fruit and vegetables count towards your child’s 5 A DAY including fresh, tinned, frozen and dried. Juices, smoothies, beans and pulses also count. Discourage your child from having too many sugary or high-fat foods like sweets, cakes, biscuits, some sugary cereals and soft drinks. These foods and drinks tend to be high in calories and low in nutrients.
- Breakfast every day
Make sure the whole family eats breakfast every day. Children who eat breakfast are less likely to overeat later in the day. If time is an issue, choose speedy yet healthy items such as peanut butter on wholemeal toast, or porridge and fruit.
- Eat at the table together
Studies show that families who have regular meals at the table with no distractions (such as television) are more likely to be a healthy weight.
- Fewer soft and fizzy drinks
There is no recommended number of soft and fizzy drinks that children can have. However, as part of a healthy balanced diet, it’s important that they don’t have too many sugary drinks, especially between meals.
- Less screen time and more sleep!
Help your children to avoid sitting and lying around too much, as it makes it more likely for them to put on weight. Limit the amount of time your child spends on inactive pastimes such as watching television, playing video games and playing on electronic devices.
- Join a weight management programme
If you’re worried about your child’s weight and would you like new ideas to help your family make healthier choices, we run two programmes in Birmingham. The First Steps and Next Steps Programmes offer a fun, interactive and useful way to help children, parents and the whole family to set goals, make healthier food choices and be more active.