If you’ve noticed your child is gaining weight, it can be a worry but there are many things you can do to help them maintain a healthy weight. Children who become very overweight have a higher risk of growing up to be overweight in adulthood and also contracting chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, some cancers and heart disease.
Studies have shown that children of a healthy weight are more likely to be fitter, better learners, have increased self-confidence and are healthier. As a parent, the key is getting them more active and promoting healthier food choices.
Here are some ways you can help:
Try to act as a good role model
Encourage an hour, or more if possible, of vigorous physical activity every day
Serve only child-sized portions
Introduce healthy drinks, snacks and meals
Limit screen time and aim to get more sleep
Children learn by example, so instilling good habits in your child starts with you. Try going for a walk or bike ride instead of putting on Netflix or playing on your phone, for example. Take them swimming, which shows that exercise can be fun. Changes are much easier to accept if they are small and incremental, involving the whole family.
An overweight child only needs the same amount of exercise as a child of healthy weight, they will naturally burn off more calories for doing the same activities. Every child needs around 60 minutes of activity each day but remember this doesn’t have to be all in one go. A few shorter bursts of activity during the day can be just as effective.
Children of all ages can be encouraged with fun activities such as ball games, chase, scooter riding, skipping, play equipment or dancing for example. For Childrens wooden climbing frames, visit NI Climbing Frames.
You can encourage a child to gradually build up to an hour if they have previously been inactive. Let them choose a fun activity and they will be more likely to stick with it. Installing play equipment can be a great reason to get out and play, such as Childrens wooden climbing frames, for example.
Choose to walk instead of taking the car or bus. You’ll get fitter and save money too!
Another way to help is to avoid serving portions that are too large. A good place to start is to serve a smaller portion and see if the child is still hungry. Try to avoid making your child finish everything on a plate or eating more than they really want to. Try not to serve a child’s meal on an adult-sized plate. Be aware of how many calories are in different foods and talk to your child about the importance of eating a balanced diet. Aim for your child to get the majority of their calorie needs from foods like fruit and vegetables and high-starch foods like pasta, potatoes and wholemeal bread.
It’s also important to encourage less screen time and more sleep. Watching TV and playing video games is very inactive, making it more likely that the child will put on weight. There are no set rules but no more than 2 hours is usually recommended.
Getting plenty of sleep also helps children to keep off excess weight. A lack of sleep affects behaviour and mood, so make sure electronic devices are removed from bedrooms at night.