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The Childhood Obesity Epidemic: Teach Your Kids About Food And Nutrition

Childhood obesity is a global phenomenon that is affecting kids irrespective of their age, sex, socioeconomic class, race or ethnicity. The past decade had observed a dramatic increase in the health care costs due to obesity and other related issues. Childhood obesity has become a threat to public health and we have reached at the “tipping-point” of this progression that cannot be ignored any further.

Let’s have a look at the statistics

According to a research published by Indian Journal of Basic & Applied Medical Research; December 2012 that studied the Prevalence and trends of obesity in Indian school children of different socioeconomic class; the overall prevalence of obesity was found to be 14.97%. The research concluded that the prevalence of obesity is on rise in Indian children, highlighting the possible role of change in the dietary pattern and physical activities with increase in income levels. Collective effort of parents and schools are required to institute early preventive measures to reduce the march towards obesity and its future complications.

What could it mean for our kids?

Obesity predisposes children to a range of diseases and morbidities. It makes them prone to hypertension, type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, asthma, respiratory disorders, physical disabilities and many more. It has physical as well as mental implications on their growth and development. Obesity severely affects life-expectancy.

What led us to this?

What changed in the last two decades that led us to this tragic stage? The thing that has pushed us to this catastrophe is the change in our lifestyle. Yes, it’s as simple as that! The change in the landscape of food in the last three generations and the sedentary lifestyles coupled with it is the fundamental cause.

Food in the earlier days defined a home; it was a form of love and culture passed through generations. That doesn’t happen anymore. We do not eat fresh produce and local ingredients or put our heart and soul in cooking a meal. Fast foods and packaged meals have taken us by a storm. These high-calorie, high-carbohydrate, high-fat lip-smacking foods create hedonic expressions in our brains that get us addicted to them. Looking out for these comfort meals becomes more of a natural tendency and thus snacking has become a religion. The portion sizes are increasing, sugar consumption is hitting the roof and processed foods with all sorts of colours, additives, preservatives have become a part of our lives.

We need to realize that the time bomb is ticking and we need to act now and we need to act quick. Preventing and fighting obesity requires a multi-disciplinary approach that involves adequate changes in dietary patterns, physical activity and lifestyle. The most important gift we can give our kids is to educate and empower them to make healthy judicious food choices. Kids should be taught the impact of food, nutrition and physical activity on their bodies and mind. We need to provide kids with access to the foods that are healthy so that they do not make faulty unhealthy choices.

Recommended Read: Teaching Healthy Habits for Children in Pre school Age

Having sent my nephew to school this year, I have realized that this life skill if taught to the kids, does help them keep an account of what is good for them and what isn’t. We only need to teach them.

How parents can make a change?

  • Teach your children about the benefits of eating healthy: Introduce them to a variety of fruits and vegetable. For god’s sake teach them that French fries aren’t vegetables! Help them understand why they need to consume at least 5 exchanges of fruits and vegetables daily.

  • Be a role model: kids learn from what they see. You cannot expect your kid to eat fruits when your kitchen cabinet is full of processed food and soda. You need to practice what you preach.

  • Limit screen time: Do not make kids sit in front of huge television sets and eat their meals. Teach them to really taste and appreciate food when they eat.

  • Get them involved with the process of cooking. Plan your menus with them, take them grocery shopping with you, educate them about healthy and unhealthy ingredients and turn this into an exciting activity that your children look forward to.

  • Teach your kids about portion sizes and moderation. Do not hand them a family pack of potato chips at snack time and then grumble about them overeating. Teach them how one cookie paired with a glass of milk is allowed sometimes.

  • Do not correlate food with emotions. Do not reward your child with a burger meal or hand him a chocolate when he feels low.

Obesity is nothing but a lifestyle disorder and is irreversible. We just need to understand and accept the intensity of this grave issue and take charge of the health of our children. As a dietician, an aunt to four kids, a believer and preacher of healthy eating and a disease management expert; I truly believe that our children can fight this graving issue. We only need to educate and empower them.

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