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  • How can nutrition help in the prevention of childhood obesity? – Tips for parents and teachers – by Shikha Agarwal

    Published on September 23, 2022

    Childhood obesity has become a global health problem and it has been a significant area of research among healthcare workers sadly there is no easy solution to tackle this issue. Developing and middle-income countries like India are facing critical challenges and it is predicted that over the decade from 2020 to 2030, the number of child obesity will become more than double. The risk of obesity in children lies in the age range of 5-9 the most followed by decreasing prevalence in the age group of 10-18.

    “The issue of obesity is like a silent pandemic and it is no longer a symptom but a disease,” says Shikha. Therefore it has become a must to battle against it. The rise of obesity among children is caused by multiple reasons. Low physical activity, low metabolism, genetic factors, cultural and environmental environment and poor dietary conditions are some of the elements that can influence the susceptibility of a given child to obesity conducive environment. If a child gets overweight and obese it will likely impact their physical and mental health. However, it can be prevented if parents and teachers focus on creating an environment that can naturally influence their diet and physical activities.

    You have to check what kind of food type you are keeping at home. The presence of unhealthy, energy-rich, and packaged food filled with saturated fat and sugar will contribute to your children’s nutritional habits. If your child takes a higher amount of energy-rich foods and does not do any physical activity, their metabolism will go over 30 leading them towards weight gain. It is simple science; they need to burn the amount of energy they are in taking. If only they eat fibre-rich foods, where portions of protein and carbohydrates are also present, then they will have a well-balanced diet, receiving all kinds of vitamins and minerals.

    It is advised to both parents and teachers to change their lifestyle habits as well because it has the potential to affect the behavioural habits of the children. Shikha says, “If both parents are obese, the chances of a child becoming obese are more.” In schools, activities should be planned for children in a way that encourages them to take part in physical activity. Further, they should eliminate unhealthy food items and focus on providing important nutrients like calcium and fibre in the cafeteria and even promote healthy eating and educate children about smart food choices. 

    “If your child is obese, then you have to come up with a weight loss plan, that is where I come in the equation,” says Shikha Agarwal. Everybody is different hence the weight loss plan would be different, what will be common in those plans is the intake of fruits and leafy vegetables and a significant reduction in the consumption of packaged foods and sugary drinks. A weight loss plan is incomplete without any sort of physical activity, yes a planned and optimised diet will account for 80% of the work, but that 20% is fulfilled by workout as it accelerates the results of diet two-fold.

    Children indeed tend to mirror what they see their parents and seniors doing both at home and in school. Thus it is advised to correct their relationship with food. Shikha advises “Make sure that they don’t watch any screen while eating and develop the habit of eating with them, involve them or make them observe the cooking process, let them explore the wonders of cooking.” At schools, teachers should come up with programmes that spread awareness to tackle obesity at the ground level.

    Parents should stop labelling food as ‘good or bad’ because children can eat everything if given to them in moderation. One of the major reasons for overeating is the habit of continuous snacking among children. Thus plan what snacks you can provide, for example, apple wedges, cereals with bananas, whole grain crackers, lean meat and many more alternatives. Please avoid juices that are fewer in nutrients and more in calories.

    Shikha Agarwal – Nutritionist and Health & Wellness Enthusiast is based out of Kolkata.


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