Up to 327,000 children are either obese or overweight with experts warning that Ireland is heading for a US-style epidemic, with 33% of our children now suffering from weight issues.
This hasn’t happened over night, this has been coming for a long time and we have no one to blame, but ourselves.
While weight shouldn’t be used as the only measurement for our children’s health, it is still something that we, as parents, need to be aware of. The girth of your child’s stomach, the size of their trousers or dress you have to buy to fit them, where they store fat- all of these aspects and more must be taken into account.
As they say, the first step to recovery is, firstly admitting you have a problem. This itself seems an issue for Irish parents with an alarming statistic showing that 1/3 of parents of obese teenagers thinking their teenager’s weight is “fine”. 3/4 of parents of overweight teenagers think their teenager’s weight is fine. While this can be a tricky subject to discuss with parents, it is ultimately up them to change their families eating and lifestyle habits.
If your child is obese by the time they are 5 years old, they are at a 25% chance of being an obese adult and struggling with weight and the problems that come with that. Even worse, if they are obese when they are over six years old, this increases to 50% and obese adolescents are 80% more likely to become obese adults.
All this is hardly surprising when you considered an estimated 25% of their calorie intake is supplied by biscuits, cakes, confectionary, sugars, fats and desserts everyday!
As a new parent, I understand the demands of daily life can interfere with your own eating habits, as well as your children’s. However, if you have certain rules or guidelines in place then it might help make life a little easier when deciding what your children should or shouldn’t be eating!
So what can we do for our children to introduce them to healthy eating and healthy habits for the rest of their lives?
Tips for introducing healthy eating habits for your children!
Portion Control – smaller plates at dinner time is part of a national program to address child obesity.
Add Green Veg to meal times. Make it fun by letting kids help cook it. Make it an activity. If they don’t like veg then make a juice or a smoothie together instead.
Remove sugar from breakfast time– Add Porridge, Eggs & Wholegrain toast, Homemade protein Pancakes and museli to their weekly breakfast plan routine. Try to limit or ideally eliminate all the popular cereals like coco pops, shredded wheat etc…
Eliminate fizzy drinks- replace them with no-added sugar drinks or water with a slice or lemon and lime,- showing kids how to make “their own lemonade” can be a great way of getting them to take it
Avoid sugary treats- replace chocolate or sugary treats with homemade oat cakes or homemade protein cakes
You don’t need your child to have the “perfect” diet, but, as parents, we should address the fact that we are responsible for our childs’ nutrition and consequently, their health. By introducing some or all of the tips above, your child will feel better, have better digestion, better concentration and, ultimately, a better quality of life.
Obviously, it goes without saying that these nutritional habits should be combined with daily activity, lots of running around, bedtime stories and lots of hugs to maximize the benefits!
Dave- Co-Owner of The Edge: Clontarf
Irish Health.com, What’s eating Ireland? 2004. Available at http://www.irishhealth.com/article.html
D O’Shea, The Obesity Challenge, 2006. Available at http://www.ncnm.ie/inca/publications/Obesity
Irish Universities Nutrition alliance (2006), National Children’s Food Survey, Available at http://www.iuna.net
Irish Universities Nutrition alliance (2008), National Teens Food Survey,