Childhood obesity is up and rising problem that the world is facing.
Obesity epidemic is one of the most serious challenges for health of World population.
Obesity can be found in 20-30% of children today, with dramatic trend of annual growth and alliance with other illnesses give obesity epidemic great importance.
Around 60-85% of obese children stay obese in the rest of their life, which leads to many unwanted diseases.
Combination of obesity with other diseases causes shortened lifespan, leads to diseases for next generation and threatens functioning of health care system.
Start and growth of this epidemic is explained by large social and economic changes which happened in the world in past couple of decades.
No country in the world managed to control this epidemic.
It is very hard to change bad habits in diet and persuade a child to be physically active.
Appetite is urge for survival and it is very hard to fight it, it is even harder to fight love for candy, sugar and sugar heavy drinks.
Therefore the solution is not in fast diets which melt fat because they do not exist.
But to learn more about childhood obesity we should learn what obesity really is.
What Is Obesity?
Obesity is still the oldest and most common metabolic problem with human kind.
There have been large changes in diet in the second half of last century.
From diet which was rich in plant fiber we switched to diet rich in saturated fast which means that our diet is based on high calorie intake.
At the same time with these changes there was changes in lifestyle which could be seen in lack of physical activity.
All of this together led to obesity.
Obese persons feel discriminated most of the time, especially in the U.S., although obesity was seen as symbol of wealth and fertility.
It is manifested with too much fat in the organism and increase in body weight.
Increase of body weight by 10% is seen as obesity.
Obesity is defined as abnormal or increased fat storage in the way that it harms health.
Basis of obesity is imbalance of caloric intake on the one side and calorie burning on the other.
Most common and most simple way to evaluate obesity is to calculate BMI?
Body Mass Index (BMI) is calculated based on persons weight in correlation with persons height.
It is more of an indicator if the person is overweight or not.
If you have high BMI it means that you have more body fat.
It is known that fat tissue is important endocrine organ which produces active substances with local or system effect.
Adipocytes can be considered key component of metabolic control and endocrine organ which has good and bad sides.
Fat tissue creates and releases pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory factors.
How To Know If Your Child Is Obese?
Evaluation of obesity with children is very difficult as kids grow in unexpected leaps.
Assessment should be done mainly by a health worker, using height and weight of the child in correlation to its previous history of growth.
Children’s diet should not be changed because you as a parent, subjectively, think that you child is overweight.
You should know that all kids have different body structure and growth dynamic.
How & When To Help A Child Lose Weight?
Weight loss is not good approach when it comes to small children, because their bodies grow and develop.
Kids with excess body weight should not be put no strict diet, except in the cases when it is recommended and supervised by doctor.
Restrictive diet may not give your child enough energy and nutrients needed for normal growth and development.
For most obese children, focus should be on maintaining current weight, while the child is gaining height.
Important strategies for prevention of obesity is healthy behaviour when it comes to children’s diet, regular physical activity and reduced sitting activity (watching tv and playing computer games).
These preventive strategies should be part of healthy lifestyle which should be developed in early childhood.
Childhood Obesity Prevention Starts At An Early Age
Some of the recommended prevention measures in preventing childhood obesity are:
- breastfeeding your baby whenever possible
- food portions adjusted to the child’s age
- building early connection to healthy food
- including active entertainment and physical activity
Breastfeeding Whenever Possible
Analysis from 2014 have shown that breastfeeding is connected to reduced risk of childhood obesity.
However, studies differ when it comes to the role of breastfeeding in prevention of childhood obesity (it takes more research to be sure).
Kids Should Eat Adjusted Portions Of Food
American academy of pediatritians explain that the little ones do not need large quantities of food.
According to their recommendation kids to the age of 1 should intake around 900 calories, 2-3 years of up to 1000 calories.
If the child is physically active calorie intake could be bigger.
Encourage older kids to learn how different sized portions look like.
Develop Early Connection With Healthy Food
Encourage your child to try different fruit and vegetables from an early age.
As your kid grows it is more likely that those fruits and vegetables will be part of their diet.
Limit Unhealthy Food In Your House
If you bring “bad” food in your household, it is likely to be eaten by your child.
Try to fill your freezer with healthy foods, and include less healthy snacks as rare “treat”.
Include Healthy Activity
For kids and teenagers at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day is recommended.
Active, fun, physical activities include outdoor games, sport activities, gym classes, etc.
Eating Healthy To Fight Childhood Obesity
When it comes to childhood obesity prevention, the measures explained above play a large role.
However, even bigger role is the food your child eats.
Daily choices and adequate selection of daily groceries is what can mean the difference between healthy and an obese child.
Here is a list of groceries important for child growth and childhood obesity prevention:
- potato, bread, rice, pasta and other carbohydrates in child’s diet
- fruits and vegetables in daily diet
- beans, legumes, fish, eggs and other protein
- snacks and drinks
- salt in kids diet
- sugar in kids diet
Potato, Bread, Rice, Pasta
This group of groceries is great source of energy, which is especially important for physically active kids.
They also contain fiber and basic vitamins and minerals which are needed for good growth and development.
Kids should have wide spectrum of foods from this group of groceries, and they should be there with every meal.
When you give kids these groceries, it is important to offer different kind of every grocery.
Cereal for breakfast and whole grain cereals are great way to start the day as they are great source of energy, vitamins, minerals and fibers.
Chose the ones with little salt and avoid sugar coated cereals, as they can cause caries and incite children’s need for sweets.
Pasta and rice can be served during meal time, try to use integral rice and pasta.
Bake or boil potato instead of deep frying it.
Fruits And Vegetables In Daily Diet
Encourage your kids to eat up to five portions of fruits and vegetables a day.
This means to combine up to 5 portions of fruits or vegetables, not 5 portions of each.
Kids should eat diverse fruits and vegetables, this will help them secure complete spectrum of vitamins and minerals.
Chose between fresh, frozen or naturally squeezed juice.
Remember, juice or smoothie only count as one portion no matter how much fruit is in them.
They should be drank only once a day, during meal time. Reason for this is that they have larger amount of sugar released during squeezing or blending them.
Amount of fruit needed for a child is around half of portion for grown ups.
Children should be encouraged to gradually increase size of their portions, up to those that is for grown ups, to prevent childhood obesity.
Portion Of Fruit
Fresh fruits of small size.
Portion is 2 or more small fruit. 2 plums, 2 kiwis, 3 apricots, 7 strawberries or 14 cherries.
Fresh fruit of medium size.
Portion is 1 piece of fruit such as 1 apple, banana, larger kiwi, orange or mandarin.
Large fresh fruit.
Portion is half of grape, 1 slice of cantaloup, large slice of pineapple or 2 slices of mango.
Portion Of Vegetables
Portion is 2 broccoli flowers or 4 spoons of boiled spinach.
Portion is 3 spoons of cooked vegetables, carrot, green beans or sweet corn.
Portion is 1 celery stick, fresh pickle, 1 medium tomato and one quarter of paprika.
Beans, Eggs, Fish and Other Protein
These groceries are a rich source of protein, vitamins and minerals.
Protein is important for many body functions, this is why they are also important for fighting childhood obesity.
Try adding them to meals to gain colour, taste and texture.
It is recommended that children eat at least 2 portions of fish a week. One of those portions should be fat fish for example salmon.
Eggs are great alternative for meat.
Meat is a great source of protein and vitamin.
Diet rich in iron will help prevent anemia which can come as a consequence of forced diet because of childhood obesity.
Meat products such as sausage, bacon, are children’s favourite. However, they should be avoided as they contain too much fat, salt and additives.
Milk and dairies are important during childhood, as they are great source of calcium, vitamin A and D, protein and fat.
All of these are very important for kid’s body functioning and resisting childhood obesity.
Vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption and therefore plays a vital part in bone strengthening.
It is also very important for immunity.
Fresh full fat milk should be given to children until they turn two.
If child eats diverse food from the age of two, it can be given half skimmed milk.
When you are buying replacements for dairies, search for unsweetened options enriched with calcium.
Snacks And Drinks
Best bites and drinks between meals are those without sugar.
Drinks and snacks between meals, which are good for the teeth are:
- milk or water
- diced fruit or vegetables
- integral bread or toast
- egg sandwich
- sour milk with berries
- chia pudding with berries
Childhood Obesity – Salt
There is no need to add salt into your child’s food.
Maximal amount of salt which your child should intake depends on the kids age.
Recommended daily amounts are:
- 1-3 year old – 2 grams of salt
- 4-6 years old – 3 grams of salt
- 7-10 years old – 5 grams of salt
- 11 and older – 6 grams of salt a day
Try to replace salt with pepper and herbs to add more taste to your meals.
Childhood Obesity – Sugar
Eating too much sugar can for sure lead to childhood obesity among other bad things.
Therefore it is important to avoid giving too much sweets to a child.
Maximal daily intake for kids is:
- 4-6 years old – up to 19 grams
- 7-10 years old – no more than 24 grams
- 11 and older – no more than 30 grams a day
There is not limitation or guideline for a child younger than 4 when it comes to sugar intake.
However, it is recommended to avoid drinks with processed sugar and foods with sugar in them.
For childhood obesity WHO primarily considers that it is problem with parental responsibility.
They claim that children’s portions are way above normal.
Consequence of that is that child feels the need for more food even when it ate more than enough.
Larger portions which parents serve to children create habit of overeating in their lives.
Polls show that around the world parents tend to give more than enough food to their children.
Parents also tend to use too fat and too sweet food in meals meant for children.
We all as parents need to take responsibility for our kids and take measures needed.
Childhood Obesity Treatment
Childhood obesity is a great problem, but it is not one that cannot be solved.
When treating childhood obesity it is important to know 3 key elements:
- change in diet
- psychological support
- physical activity
Considering that obesity is cause of many diseases and not just matter of physical look, it is important that parent begin cooperation with doctor in order to start treatment.
It is not recommended for parents to take the things into their own hands.
This could lead to parents cutting too much meals, which could lead to counter effect.
When it comes to childhood obesity, common mistake is that parents want to get their child to ideal body weight.
It is important to differ primary and long term goal.
Primary goal in treating childhood obesity is to form healthy life habits and increase physical activity.
Long term goal is to maintain optimal body weight for the rest of the child’s life.
Do not forget that you, as a parent, should be the greatest support your child could have in this process.
Do not allow yourself, not even in a joke, to give your kid nicknames based on their obesity.
All that child keeps to itself will carve deep into its subconsciousness.
Later in life, even if it does not have a problem with excess weight, it will have problem with forming an image about itself.
This image could be put in that little head by YOU.
What Does Success In Treating Childhood Obesity Depend On?
As before mentioned in the article, to get effect in treating child hood obesity it is necessary to change the way child feeds.
It is necessary to cut snacks and sweets, and instead add healthy groceries.
If you are aware that you gave your child portions that were too big for it, reduce it.
Do not forget that child should not eat as much as your during a meal.
Of course, consult doctors as this process of treating childhood obesity should be less stressful for the child and for you.
In order for this treatment to be successful, loss of weight should be gradual.
Children should not go on strict diets, as this will have harmful effects on growth and development of a child.
Primary goal in treating childhood obesity is to reduce weight for 10% as it will have positive effect on health and overall state of organism.
After that it is necessary to maintain that weight for 6 months.
If it is needed to continue with weight loss, after the 6 months it can be continued.
This is of utmost importance, because this is the only way to keep wanted body weight.
It is often seen that kids get to wanted weight, relatively quickly, but after that return starting weight as they go back to old way of eating.
There Is No Universal Recipe
Every child is an individual, and before you start fighting childhood obesity it is important to visit a doctor first.
It is important that child does tests, because this is the only way to exclude diseases which could lead to obesity.
Although there is no universal recipe, there are some common recommendations give by experts.
These recommendations are that diet should be diverse and that half of that diet should be fruits and vegetables.
One quarter of this diet should be grains and quarter proteins from eggs, fish and meat.
Include your children when shopping for groceries and food preparation.
Avoid serving them fried foods and reduce them pastas.
It is very important that children eat as much as they can with whole family at the table.
Important Guidelines For Parents
As in everything, it is expected from you to be the greatest support to your kids.
Most common mistake that parents make is that they give food as a reward for something that kid did right.
Do not use food as a reward.
You probably see this all the time. Do not give your kid chocolate for a success that your kid made.
You cannot expect from your kid to be physically active if you spend most of your time in front of it in your chair on your phone.
Do not forget that you are the role model that you kid looks up to.
Your kid looks at you and imitates you.
Encourage your kid to do sports, but do not forget to take a walk together, this can be beneficial to every side.
Kid needs around 1 hour of physical activity during the day.
It can be done all at once, or in several intervals which depends from a child’s age.
If a child hadn’t been active, start with it and practice together.
In any case, childhood obesity does not only lead to displeasure with physical look but with lack of confidence.
This can be a major health issue.
The sooner you take the necessary measures and help your kid deal with excess weight, you will prove your role as a parent, and the kid will be grateful.