The number of overweight children is increasing. Dubai has a high rate of child obesity and diabetes. Research shows that overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults.
Seek advice if you’re not sure
Children have different body shapes at different ages, so it can be difficult to tell if a child is overweight. Your family doctor, school nurse or on experienced health professional will be able to give you feedback on your child’s growth.
Why children become overweight
Children become overweight when the energy they ‘take in’ (Though food and drink) is greater than the energy they ‘put out’ (though physical activity and exercise). A diet high in energy and fat, combined with low levels of physical activity and exercise, will lead to a person becoming overweight. Genetic factors cannot be changed but you can influence your child’s eating habits and activity patterns, which will also affect their body weight.
Possible problems for overweight children
Overweight children can face many difficulties such as feeling different from other children, or being bullied. This affects their self-confidence and desire to take part of everyday activity such as school sports. This cycle can make weight control move difficult and children who continue to be overweight into adulthood are of greater risk of developing high blood fats and heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, joint and breathing problems and are susceptible to strokes.
How to help your overweight child
If your child is overweight, it is important to seek the advice of a health professional. Young children SHOULD NOT be on diets that severely limit food intake. You may be advised to make permanent changes to your family’s lifestyle and eating patterns and it may take a number of attempts before children are happy to change their food choices or become more active. This can be frustrating for parents but don’t give up. Stay positive. Children who are overweight need to know that they are loved and important, regardless of their weight.
How to make healthy food choices
A healthy diet is not only the type but also the amount of food they eat. Good nutrition starts early so whenever possible try to breastfeed, encourage a wide variety of nutritious foods instead of processed snack foods, and offer children water when they are thirsty. Sweet drinks including juice, cordial and soft drinks are not necessary and can contribute to tooth decay.
Encourage healthy changes to your child’s eating by buying
Preparing and offering the foods you would like your child to eat even if they refused at first, act as a role model, involve children in simple food preparation, help your child recognize if he or she eats when bored, sad or lonely. Try to suggest another activity to help distract them and try not to punish, reward or cheer your child up with food as it establishes an unhealthy relationship with food.
Start slowly. Manage one or two small changes. Setbacks may happen, but be patient and reward your child’s effort and progress with treats like books, stickers or special outings.
Involve the whole family in healthy eating and activity. Encourage active play and sport that is non-competitive or skill based. Limit sedentary activities such as TV, screen games and computers to no more than one hour a day for below five and 2hours for older kids.
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