You may have read about it on social media or in the news, obesity in children is on the increase, and its time we did something about it. By ‘we’ I mean from the top to the bottom, Government, food companies (I wish), right through to us as parents. There is a lot we can do in terms of taking responsibility for our own health and that of the future generation.
I’ve written before about our health our responsibility and it’s no different when it comes to our children, except it’s up to us carry the responsibility for them and show them better choices when it comes to two things – eating better and being active. It is not acceptable to expect others to do the job for us. It is not acceptable to feed children junk food several times a week. One thought process is that they will grow out of it but this just isn’t the case. 80% of children who are obese during childhood continue to be obese in adulthood. I don’t know about you but I think that’s a frightening statistic. There are so many things we can do to make things better and they don’t have to be big changes either.
Children and Nutrition
So let’s look at a few examples, specifically around food and children. First thing that springs to mind is what I see every morning when children are on their way to school, crisps chocolate and so common now, ENERGY DRINKS! This is no way for anyone to start their day never mind children. I appreciate it is difficult if your child is asking for lunch money or bus fare and then blowing it on unhealthy junk when you’re not there, but we must try and educate them on the cons to eating so unhealthy. I’m not talking about a ‘treat’ here and there, I’m talking about day in day out. It is damaging young people, no question!
Another example is in schools. From what I’ve seen school dinners have got a hell of a lot better especially with more schools cooking fresh rather than having it precooked and delivered in. There are a couple of small tweaks that could be made though. One: Get rid of fruit juices, these are quite simply sugar water which are not needed in a child’s diet. Two: Stop providing sugary puddings with custard etc. I just don’t see these as a necessity at all and there are two benefactors to not having them, the children and the school in terms of budget savings. I know there is an argument in deprived areas where a child’s school meal might be the only meal they get but does that mean we have to fill them with sugar?!
Which brings us nicely on to meals prepared in the home and snacking options on offer for children. Preparing fresh meals, I appreciate, can be tricky in scenarios such as having fussy eaters but does it mean we just give in to their demands or protests? No. Perseverance and encouragement will eventually win out. Sure it’s going be tough and potentially have a temporary behavioural impact, but it will get better. I have a 5 year old so fully appreciate and have experienced the battles first hand. I also have over 15 years experience of working with children and young people in an education and residential setting. I know things aren’t easy sometimes and you can see the reaction you’re going to get when suggesting new things, but the simple reality is no one is going to do it for us. Change one meal at a time. Have a sweet/treat cupboard? Get rid of it. Involve your children in preparing and cooking the meal (where deemed safe to do so!). Little changes that make a big difference. I hear a lot of ‘eating healthy is too expensive’, on this issue please take a look at my blog Eating healthy – Too expensive or just an excuse?
Children and exercise
So, poor nutrition in children is rising, impacted further by a decrease in physical exercise or activity. With an increasing techy world and the demand from children to have the latest smart phone or console it is no wonder we have children a lot less active. A lot of children don’t play outdoors any more, whether that be due to technology or parent fears due to social issues, they don’t play outdoors. This is where as parents we come in. Get out and be active as a family! Adults need more exercise as well so kill two birds with one stone. In a recent piece in the guardian a quarter of adults exercise for less than half an hour a week. Not good. Getting active doesn’t need to be a gruelling gym session. As a family go walking, play some sport together, go for a swim or just make up some games. First rule of getting children active is make it FUN. Little games such as rats and rabbits, tig/stuck in the mud or relays are great ways for kids to have fun but also the whole family. A favourite of my 5 year old’s is hide and seek in the woods. It doesn’t have to be difficult and doesn’t need to cost a lot of money.
So to conclude, it is our responsibility. It can be difficult when children rebel against change but things will get better, be consistent and persistent. If we don’t change we can’t expect our children to. Be role models, be the example.
If you have any questions at all or would like more advice or information on activities etc. please do not hesitate to get in touch by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to help!
Eat Well. Move Well. Live Well.