How to help your children eat healthier (and prevent being overweight)

Overweight and obesity, two conditions that were once exclusive to the adult world, have been rising dangerously among children.

Children who are overweight can develop conditions that were also typical of adulthood before, such as diabetes, hypertension or high cholesterol. In order for the minor to have a healthy childhood, and consequently a healthier adult life, the parents can contribute their enormous grain of sand. What can they do at home?

A strategy to prevent overweight in children is to improve family eating and exercise habits in the family.

True, it seems easy to say. Organizing a healthy diet is much more difficult than going out for a hamburger. And many times, the fast food restaurant is closer than the fresh market.

But it is worth the effort. A good start is to lead by example, and practice the same habits that you want to instill in your child, including:

  • Eat home-cooked meals, with vegetables and fruits.
  • Arrange the dishes so that there is a variety of meats, not always red: chicken, pork and fish.
  • Getting your child used to eating legumes, beans of all colors, are powerful nutrients.
  • Let water be the family’s favorite drink. Scientific studies have proven that sodas are not good for health and are one of the main promoters of overweight.
  • Prepare homemade snacks, chopped carrot, grapes, strawberries, so as not to fall into the bag of chips. Always have fruit on hand.
  • If the option of the weekend is a pizza, avoid adding salami and pepperoni, and, if possible, replace it with broccoli. Or just mozzarella cheese.
  • The same with pasta, it can be a light sauce with vegetables instead of chorizo.
  • Eat foods low in salt. It is important that the child does not put extra salt in his meals, this habit will help him maintain a good level of blood pressure throughout his life.
  • Avoid products that have added sugar, which dramatically raises the number of calories you consume.
  • Do not overeat. The phrase that indicates “eat to live and not live to eat” is also an apprenticeship. Moderate portions are important for maintaining a healthy weight.
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When it comes to exercise options, another critical component of a good weight:

If the child is not an athlete by nature, one of those who play several sports, or begin to compete in team or individual sports from a young age, parents play an even more important role as promoters of exercise.

  • Walking or bicycling can be activities to start with, which you can do with family or friends.
  • Having outdoor routines will help your child move more. A weekly picnic with games, or a treasure hunt in the garden are activities that will encourage the child to move without even realizing it.
  • Also activities at home, cleaning your room, helping for example to water the plants, vacuuming, not only encourages you to move, but you will have more skills in your adult life, when you live alone or start a family.

It is important to know that not all children who carry extra pounds or kilos are overweight or obese.

Some children who exercise a lot may have more muscle mass, or may even be slightly overweight, which may help their optimal development.

In any case, it must always be remembered that early interventions are those that last. Children are sure to keep the habits they learn throughout their lives. They will eat healthy if they learned from their parents to make better food choices. They will still meet up with friends to play soccer or basketball.

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If you are concerned or have doubts about your child’s weight, your pediatrician will be able to review how your child’s growth and development has been and evaluate parameters such as: weight/height (height), weight/age, height/age and at what “ percentile” is found on growth and development charts and analyze the rate at which you have gained weight.

It will also consider your family history, your eating habits, your nutritional status and will be able to determine if this excess weight is really worrying and requires proper management to avoid health complications.

Although the current lifestyle, sedentary lifestyle, has a lot to do with the number of overweight or obese children today, genetic and hormonal factors are determining factors, so proper management and treatment are necessary.

Other risk factors for overweight or obesity:

psychological. Stress can increase the risk of overweight and obesity in children, creating eating behaviors that lead to overeating.

Socioeconomic. Lack of money sometimes makes it difficult access to a healthy diet.

How could your child’s health be affected if they are obese?

If the child is overweight or obese, they increase the risk of certain conditions that were previously a priority for adults, such as: type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, high levels of glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, low HDL or good cholesterol and excess abdominal fat).

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Weight can also trigger asthma and sleep disorders such as obstructive apnea.

This imbalance of the body that is generated by excessive weight can trigger non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and greater exposure to bone fractures.

In addition, the emotional health of the minor may be affected and present problems of self-esteem, anxiety, or depression, especially if their relationships are affected and they are the victim of harassment or “bullying” at school.

If the child isolates himself or seems to feel bad as a result of being overweight or obese, it is always good to ask for help, a specialist will guide the child, and the parent, to walk a path towards an ideal weight and a healthier life.

Sources: American Pediatric Association, USDA, scientific studies, nutritionist Gloria Rabell.

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