It’s important for parents to enforce measures that will prevent their child from becoming obese early on in their child’s life.
WORDS NURULHUDA SUHAIMI
Singapore isn’t immune to the problem of obesity among its population. Want to ensure your child doesn’t end up on the heavier end of the scale? Here are some measures to look into.
Encouraging Healthy Eating Habits
Ensuring your child is consuming a healthy and balanced diet from young is vital in preventing childhood obesity. When preparing your child’s meals, make sure there are balanced portions of each food group. In between your child’s meals, you can offer him healthier snacks in place of sugary foods, such as fruits, yoghurt and cheese, suggests Dr Tan Zhen Han, paediatrician from SBCC Baby & Child Clinic (Bukit Panjang).
Beverages play a part in a healthy diet too. Offer your child a glass of plain water
with his meals instead of a juice box, and encourage him to drink milk
rather than sweet beverages like sodas or even fruit juice.
While it’s good to maintain a healthy diet, it’s also important that your child understands it’s okay to have sweet treats every now and again. The key here is moderation. As advised by Dr Tan, “Limit the consumption of foods with little nutritional value – deemed “empty calories” (e.g. sugar-sweetened beverages, those with added table sugar such as cookies and cakes, high-fat or high sodium processed foods, most junk food) to once or twice a week.”
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No “Clear-the-Plate” Rules
“Serve reasonably sized portions and remember not to force your child to finish their plates. Parents need to help their child recognise their hunger and satiety signals, so as to allow their child to sit at the table hungry, eat a non-rushed meal, and leave the table feeling full,” advises Dr Tan.
Involve Your Child
“Get your child involved in grocery shopping and discuss healthy food options,” advises Sarah Shamila, head of Nutrition and Dietetic Services, Mount Alvernia Hospital. Bringing your child along while you shop for groceries is a good opportunity for you to teach your child about the different healthy foods available. You can show him the wide variety of fruits and vegetables that are in the supermarket, and you can even let your child decide what he wants in his meals.
Engaging in regular physical activity is vital in lowering the risk of childhood obesity. Your child doesn’t necessarily have to do high-intensity exercises to get active – even low-impact physical activity can go a long way towards your child’s health. As suggested by Dr Tan, you can encourage your little one to stay active by getting him out of the stroller more often, taking the stairs instead of the lift, as well as walking to school or around the neighbourhood.
Reduce Time Spent on Sedentary Activities
Limit your child’s screen time such as watching television or playing video games to two hours a day, says Shamila.
Encourage your child to spend more time on things that involve more activity
by bringing him to the playground or playing sports.
Doing this regularly will allow your child to develop healthy lifestyle
habits that will hopefully last into adulthood.
Don’t Use Food as a Reward
If you want your child to behave, avoid using food as a reward to get him to cooperate with you. Shamila recommends parents reward their child with play time outdoors instead such as bringing him to the park.