Overweight Children: How parents can make a difference

Overweight Child and Healthy Food PhotoThe number of overweight children is increasing. Australia has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity amongst all the developed nations, with approximately 25% of children currently overweight or obese. Overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults. Today many kids are spending more time in front of the TV, computer or video games and less time outside exercising. The busy daily schedules of many parents leave little time to prepare healthier meals. This leads to eating many fast food and microwave pre-packed meals.

Healthy Lifestyle Tips

It’s important to implement healthy eating patterns in childhood to prevent obesity or other health problems later in life. Start slowly by introducing one to two small changes and work your way gradually into a healthier lifestyle:
  • Young children should not be on put diets that limit their food intake.
  • Children are growing so aim to maintain your child's weight rather than looking for weight loss.
  • Everyone at home should be involved in lifestyle changes to make it fun and positive
  • Get your kids involved in helping you plan and prepare healthy meals
  • Reduce outings to restaurants and prepare more meals at home
  • Encourage at least 30 minutes to one hour of physical activity daily, preferably outside.
  • Find an activity that your child enjoys
  • Don’t forget that you’re role models for your children
  • Avoid rewarding your children with food
  • Limit TV, computers and video games to no more than one hour a day.
  • Don't completely eliminate their favourite snacks just don't make them a common occurrence at home.
  • Get them to choose a meal once a week.

Healthy Food Choices

  • Replace snacks high in sugar, sodium, preservatives and colouring with fruit, nuts, and healthy dips
  • Encourage a wide variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Eat breakfast every day. Focus on healthy choices like oatmeal, berry smoothies, omelettes
  • Encourage your child to eat a diet high in protein
  • Drink water when thirsty, avoid juice, cordial and soft drinks
  • Increase Essential fatty acids from oily fish, nuts and seeds

Mental difficulties associated with overweight and obesity

Researchers found that kids who were obese were more likely to face difficulties with their peer relationships than normal weight kids. Overweight children are more likely to have low self-esteem, due to criticism, leading them to withdraw from peer activity.
  • Overweight or obese children are more likely to have disrupted or restless sleep, this can effect their emotional health during the day.
  • Lack of social acceptance by their peers often leaves them feeling lonely, sad and anxious. This can affect their academic performance.
  • They may be embarrassed about the way they look. Be supportive and talk to your child about their feelings.
  • Never tell your child that he or she is fat. Tell them how beautiful they are, focus on their strengths and be positive.

Health Risks from being overweight

Overweight and obese children are at greater risk of developing medical problems if they are overweight in their adulthood:
  • Breathing problems that makes physical activity more difficult
  • High blood pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Bone and joint problems
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Disrupted or restless sleep (sleep apnea)
  • Stroke
  • Eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia
Regular professional advice from a Naturopath/Nutritionist can help you with ideas, motivation, progress checks and improved results. Your naturopath can help you to help your child reach and maintain a healthy weight.

Tanya Marinovic photoTalk to Tanya Marinovic

Tanya Marinovic is a practising Naturopath at the Mr Vitamins Clinic and dedicated mother of two. She has a special interest in Children's Health and Parental Support. Learn more about Tanya here