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A large percentage of children in developed countries are overweight. Obesity is steadily on the increase and drastic measures are being taken worldwide to try and understand and ultimately deal with this growing epidemic.
There are two areas of intervention, first is how can we assist families of children who are obese or borderline obese. The second is how we prevent childhood obesity in the future. As far as prevention is concerned we have gone right back to the early days of feeding babies. What milk your baby is being fed (breast or bottle) may have a more significant role in preventing or causing childhood obesity than what was previously understood. When and how you wean is another area that is being closely looked at in the quest to prevent this growing epidemic.
Studies suggest that the early feeding environment may be a significant factor in childhood obesity. The findings showed that children who had been breastfed longer had a lower fat mass which could not be explained by differences in family background or the child’s height. It was also found that, independent of the duration of breastfeeding, children with higher quality weaning diets including fruits, vegetables, and home-prepared foods had a greater lean mass at four years of age.
Many children acquire bad habits right from their own homes. One way to see is how much time a child spends in front of the television or playing games on the computer. One way to change this is to have rules that encourage children play outdoors. Having children participate in outdoor activities would be one way parents can provide help for overweight kids.
Teaching by example is the way to inculcate in children the right habits. Eating healthy meals prepared from fresh nutritious ingredients would be a start. Removing junk food altogether may not be the right way but by controlling their intake, the child can eat better meals. Taking time out to exercise together as a family and having healthy meals together would be great for all. Also, limiting TV time to a certain number of hours would be help for overweight kids; they can learn to become active and spend time outside engaging in activities with friends.
These healthy habits are best formed in the early years when introducing solids to your baby as well as in the toddler years when you need to set boundaries. These boundaries can include healthy foods choices, mealtime routines as well as regular physical activity with limited TV times.
It is much easier to train these healthy habits from early on in your child’s life than having to undo bad habits and train new ones later on in life. Here are some practical tips when it comes to introducing your baby and toddler to snacks
Snacking for health
Snacking is not a bad thing — in fact, it’s a good thing — and it can actually help keep kids from overeating at mealtime
But even while we’re bombarded with choices by the snack food industry, it’s not always easy to find healthy snacks — much less get your kids to eat them. Here are six simple guidelines.
- Relax the Food Ties That Bind
While you may have strict nutritional guidelines for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, snacks are the place to give children some wiggle room.
- Choose the Lesser of the Evils
When it comes to ingredients like sugar and saturated fat, you might think most commercial snack foods are pretty similar, give or take a gram. But look a little harder at the label and you may find important differences.
Opting for the more nutrient-dense snack will help ensure it has some redeeming value, even if some of the other ingredients are not top nutritional choices.
In addition, keep an eye on the sugar content. Some snacks, even seemingly healthy ones like flavoured yogurt, are way over the top when it comes to added sweeteners.
- Portion, Portion, Portion
While it’s OK to give kids some leeway on choosing what snacks to have, it’s still vital to pay attention to portion size.
It’s also important to look for snacks with low levels of fat, saturated fat, and trans fat. Even if the package says a snack has no trans fats, read the ingredient list to be sure.
If you see the word ‘hydrogenated,’ it means it has some trans fat, so avoid that snack
- Make It Easy to Eat Well
Having trouble getting your kids to eat healthy snacks — like fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain items? Make these foods easy to munch, and they will eat more of them,
No matter what food it is you’re trying to get your child to eat, if you make it accessible, if it’s easy to eat, if it’s there waiting for them in the fridge or on the counter, you will increase the likelihood that they will eat it
- Make It Yourself
Some pre-packaged snacks are quite healthy. But when you make a healthy snack from scratch, it’s easy to “hide” the healthy ingredients, and give your kids the taste they want along with the nutrition you want them to have,
Another trick: Substitute fruit puree for one-half to three-quarters of the fat in any cake, cookie, or muffin recipe. You can also cut sugar by 1/3 to 1/2 without stirring up much of a fuss.
- Think Outside the Cookie Jar!
If you hear the word “snack” and automatically think cookies, chips, or pie, think again.
A snack food doesn’t have to be a sweet. It doesn’t even have to be a traditional snack food. Almost anything a kid likes to eat can be turned into a snack if you watch portion sizes.
It’s important to get kids away from the taste of sugar, and incorporating other types of snacks into their diet is one way to do that.
By Meg Faure