One in four Australian children are now overweight. Kids are becoming more sedentary yet most are eating bigger portions than they used to and more energy dense, processed foods. This is contributing to an increase in children with excess weight that frequently carries through to adulthood and increases the risk of lifestyle related disease further down the track. Below are some very simple tips that can help your family undertake a healthy lifestyle that will encourage weight maintenance.
Healthy tips – what to do
The tips below seem very simple but most of us still aren’t doing them. They can be extremely beneficial in developing a healthy attitude towards exercise and diet.
- Be a positive role model – eat how you want your children to eat and talk positively about nutrition and exercise.
- Get your children involved in after school activities and be involved with them at home.
- Let your children help you cook dinner – anything to get them up and moving.
- Limit screen time e.g. TV, computer, video games.
- Have healthy snack options available and keep sweets out of the house or out of sight.
- Aim to pack school lunch boxes with less processed foods and more fresh, nutritious ingredients.
- Don’t over pack lunch boxes. Many children are going to school with 3-4 snacks, a sandwich and also having a substantial afternoon tea/ main meals. This can add up and can result in overeating. Pack the appropriate amount of food for your child’s age and activity level.
- Limit takeaway meals and meals eaten out of home.
- For motivation set up a rewards chart and create nutrition/ exercise goals e.g. to eat 5 serves of vegetables each day. If the goals are met every day that week then give your child a small reward.
- Encourage eating at the dining table together and never in front of the TV.
- Stick to water and milk and avoid juices, soft drinks, sports drinks and any other drinks with added sugars.
- Aim for as much variety as possible within the 5 food groups e.g. instead of 4 slices of bread a day mix it up with oats and other grains.
- Check in with your children every now and then to ensure they are not being bullied.
- If you are unsure of what or how much your children should be eating – check with a dietitian.
- Ensure they aren’t sneaking food. It’s more common now that children are using their pocket money to buy chocolates and sweets before and after school with their friends.
What not to do
- Don’t give your children food as a reward or to calm them down when they are having a tantrum – this encourages more bad behavior and can lead to emotional eating as they age.
- Don’t talk negatively about food and exercise around your children. Hearing their dad say that broccoli is gross or exercise is boring will make them want to mimic this behavior even more and feel that it is acceptable.
- Don’t spend all of your time in front of the TV or on your phone.
- Don’t fall in to the trap of thinking excess weight is harmless and cute or that they shouldn’t be deprived of treats. Children can definitely still have sweets on occasion but often when I hear parents saying they don’t want to deprive their children, they are having in excess of one “extra” food per day e.g. pack of chips each day at school, for afternoon tea and chocolate at night. It’s not about depriving them but rather ensuring their health.
- Don’t talk negatively about appearance and weight or tell your children they need to go on a diet. This won’t help the situation and can often make it worse.
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist. If you have questions about healthy eating for children, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.