Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. Children who are obese are likely to be obese as adults. Thus, they are more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.
In the recent decades, family practices have significantly changed, and several of these practices greatly contribute to childhood obesity:
- With a decreasing number of mothers who breast-feed, more infants become obese children as they grow up and are reared on infant formula instead.
- Less children go outside and engage in active play as technologies, such as the television and video games, keep children indoors.
- Rather than walking or biking to a bus-stop or directly to school, more school-age children are driven to school by their parents, reducing physical activity.
- As family sizes decrease, the children pester power, their ability to force adults to do what they want, increases. This ability enables them to have easier access to calorie-packed foods, such as candy and soda drinks.
- The social context around family meal-time plays a role in rates of childhood obesity
- Fruits and vegetables, as compared to high calorie snack foods (often high fat and high sugar), should be readily available in the home.
- Serve and eat a variety of foods from each food group.
- Use small portions – child portions are usually very small, particularly compared to adult portions. More food can always be added.
- Bake, broil, roast or grill meats instead of frying them.
- Limit use of high calorie, high fat and high sugar sauces and spreads.
- Use low-fat or non – fat and lower calorie dairy products for milk, yogurt and ice cream.
- Support participation in play, sports and other physical activity at school or community leagues.
- Avoid eating while watching TV. TV viewers may eat too much, too fast, and are influenced by the foods and drinks that are advertised.
- Replace high-sugared drinks, especially sodas, with water and/or low – fat milk.
- Limit fruit juice intake to two servings or less per day (one serving = ¾ cup) – Many parents allow their children unlimited intake of fruit juice (100%) because of the accompanying vitamins and minerals. However, children who drink too much fruit juice may be consuming excess calories.
- Role model through actions healthy dietary practices, nutritional snacks, and lifestyle activities. Avoid badgering children, restrictive feeding, labelling foods as “good” or “bad,” and using food as a reward.