Child Obesity: 10 Things I do as a parent to keep my children healthy
How often have you heard (or even said) these statements?
- “Wow, what a chubby and cute baby!”
- “! My child is not gaining enough weight. I am worried.”
- “I am giving my child the healthiest food (read greasiest). Wonder why he is low on energy?”
- “It’s hereditary. What can we do?”
- ….and the commonest of all…..”My child doesn’t eat at all?”.
Very often. Right? I am sure. I have done that too.
In the context of children, our definition of cute, good-looking, attractive and healthy relates to the child being fuller and heavier, which we lovingly refer to as “plump” or “healthy”.
Childhood obesity is growing at an alarming rate across the world. It is no more a problem that belongs to someone else. Every second family has a child who is obese or bordering obesity. The problem is ours and needs collective, conscious and immediate action.
The consequences of letting it be could be far more horrendous than we can imagine. More and more children are likely to develop high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis due to obesity. The psychological flips include low self-esteem, depression and, eating and sleep disorders.
No parent ever decides or chooses to make their child obese. Yet one in five children ends up being overweight by the time they reach primary school. So, there has to be something wrong that we are doing as parents. Parents’ lifestyle and eating preferences and patterns are a bigger cause of child obesity than genetics and lack of physical activity put together. Lat’s accept it. Acknowledgement of this fact is the first step towards change!
As parents, we have to constantly battle against an environment where unhealthy, high calorie, low nutrition foods are marketed directly to children. The mindless media inputs and irresponsible advertisements create a want and urgency in the minds of young children for consuming the unhealthy junk. How do we stop that? Can we even do it? No!
It’s about time to take a step back and reassess our belief system, that is causing our children more harm than doing them good.
My daughter,7, is obese too. Not something that I planned! Instead of hoping ‘time’ do its job in helping her lose some ‘puppy fat’, I have taken things into my hands to help her understand the importance of a healthy body and develop conscious eating habits.
“Proactive parenting is my choice over reactive parenting”
I have realized that if anyone can do anything to control obesity of my child and help him build a healthy body, it’s me, only me. The change has to begin with me. Children learn best by observation, and who can be a better role model than a parent.
So, here are a few things we have done (and we are still in the process) to help my children become make conscious eaters. And we are going great!
- Taking out time to cook: The change begins with me. Being a busy working mother, I am almost always short of time. However, I make it a point to cook at least one meal for my kids that they will like. I look up videos on YouTube and take recipes from friends to cook healthier tasty alternatives, something my cook cannot do.
- Early dinner and sleep time: As a rule, my children have early dinner, by 7.30pm, and hit the bed by 8.30 pm. This serves two purposes, one the windows to binge in the evening and late light is closed, and second, the children have a good 8+ hours of sleep.
- Snacks sorted: I have cleared our kitchen cabinet and refrigerator of items such as sweet biscuits, namkeens, chips, sugary juices, and chocolates. Instead, I keep stock of seasonal fruits, microwave crisped chiwda, roasted groundnuts, roasted chana, seeds and cheese cubes to nibble on as snacks.
- Celebration redefined: A celebration is no more about going out to a restaurant or ordering in pizza. Instead, we accumulate occasions and redeem our ‘celebration time’ by going to the water park, or a kid’s movie, or the gaming zone, or the zoo, or some other place where we have an experience and build memories. And yes, we go there with food in our bellies!
- Ownership of decision: My children and I are partners in our journey towards good health. I allow them to take decisions, make choices, and assume ownership of their health. So, if we are out and feel like drinking something, they are free to make a choice between a packaged juice and coconut water (if available). They have not disappointed me so far.
- In it together: As a family, we are committed to healthy eating and we are in it together.
- Predictable outings: Our food outings are usually planned and predictable. So we know where we are going, when and what we would be eating. This saves a lot of ambiguity and spontaneous consumption of junk food. Example: We normally head to our favorite South Indian restaurant for breakfast every Saturday after the gym to have dosa or idli. It has become a sweet little ritual that we look forward to, serves as a bonding time and ensures we aren’t eating anything grossly unhealthy.
- Planned cheats: The kids do love pizza and Maggi and depriving them of their gastronomic pleasure is not my intention. So we plan our junk days intelligently.
- Small is big: As a rule, we don’t buy chocolates, chips, juices, pastries and sugary treats in large packs or big sizes. We get the smallest packaged unit meant for one-time consumption. This is almost always enough to satiate a craving.
- Peer talk: I discuss with my children the benefits of being healthy and fit. I make it a point to share with them some amazing videos, nutrition myths, and facts, reading nutrition labels, articles on fitness, healthy living, and achievers. They may not understand all of it, but it does have an impact. They now understand, it is not about looking good, or being fat or thin, being healthy is a more than that. It is building into them. I can see it.
It’s time to get over iPads and iPhones, and gift your child the priceless gift of good health!