Tackling Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity is, unfortunately, becoming a prevalent issue, with one in four Irish children currently overweight or obese. Luckily, though, it is an avoidable issue. By keeping your child active and encouraging a balanced diet, you’ll ensure their heart is healthy and their weight is appropriate for their height and age. Even small healthy habits will last a lifetime; remember, children learn what they live – and right now, you’re their primary role model.
- Encourage your child to get an hour’s activity every day. Avoid the car and walk to school in the mornings, or head out for a family cycle in the evenings or at weekends.
- Encourage sports in or after school – take the time to figure out what your child enjoys, as they’ll be more likely to stick with something they like. Team sports encourage camaraderie and will help your child make friends too.
- If you’re an avid runner, cyclist or swimmer, why not get your child involved? Parkrun, for example, organise free, weekly runs around Ireland for Juniors (2km), while some other runs encourage kids to walk or jog the last mile with Mum or Dad.
- Limit TV / computer game time to less than two hours per day. Instead, encourage your children to play – building forts, playing with Lego and going to events like Coder Dojo and the Science Gallery Workshops will stimulate creativity and keep little ones active and entertained for hours!
- When preparing school and after dinner snacks, get creative. Adding hidden veggies to different snacks, preparing sugar-free fruity desserts and making nutritious, homemade versions of your family’s favourite treats is a fun way to ensure your kids are eating healthily. Be sure to avoid sweets, chocolate and sugary drinks.
- Try to ensure they get 5+ portions of fruit or vegetables each day.
- Educate kids about nutrition, focusing on the idea of balance. Look at labels together to figure out the make-up of their favourite foods, explaining why some things should be enjoyed as an occasional treat.
- Think of creative ways to reward children – letting them choose the family movie, a new book, even a gold star will be appreciated! Though well-intentioned, constantly rewarding good behaviour with sugary treats or fast food may create an unhealthy relationship with ‘bad’ foods as they grow older.
- Instead of turning to TV on a rainy day, cook or bake your favourite recipe together from scratch. ‘Fakeaways’ are fun and healthy versions of takeaway meals – set yourselves the challenge of making pizza, curries and even chips (baked butternut squash fries are a great alternative to deep-fried potato).