Childhood obesity is a growing health problem that has reached epidemic proportions in many parts of the world, especially in countries like the US, India and China and other nations in the world.
Preventing obesity in children is a pressing concern and parents need to be better informed, so as to make more knowledgeable choices and decisions for their children.
AdvertisementChildhood obesity puts you at risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and asthma. It also increases the risk of medical complications while undergoing treatment for otherwise mundane health conditions. Emotional and psychological wellbeing of the child is at risk too, obesity puts a dent into the child's self confidence and self-esteem. It condemns a child to a future with a warped or negative body image and problems like depression. Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia also often develop as a result of childhood obesity.
The Root of the ProblemThe risks of childhood obesity are higher in households where processed foods form the bulk of the diet, with very little fresh fruit and vegetables. It is the combination of excessive calorie intake from unhealthy food sources and a lack of physical activity, as most kids are allowed to watch TV or play video games instead of being encouraged to play outdoors. Unhealthy food choices have grown manifold in recent decades, as societies have become increasingly industrialized and people eat more high-calorie fast food and junk food that is now cheaper than fresh food. With fast-paced lifestyles in cities, families often have less time to cook and consume more ready-to-cook and outdoor meals. The intake of sugar has risen drastically, with sweet drinks, desserts, candy, biscuits and other products that contain unhealthy amounts of sugar.
Apple Consumption, Childhood Diets and ObesityEating fresh fruits and fruit products doesn't just provide you with healthy nutrition. It also improves and inculcates healthier eating habits in children. To find out just how significant an impact fruit intake can have on childhood health and obesity, researchers decided to study the association between apple consumption, and the general quality of diets and obesity in children. Apples were considered because they are the second most widely consumed fruit in the United States, where the research took place.
In this particular study, researchers studied the patterns of apple consumption in children aged 2 to 18 years and they observed these patterns against the general quality of diet and weight/adiposity in the test group. The researchers wanted to find out if the regular intake of fruits and fruit-based products like apples has any significant bearings on general quality of diet and obesity.
The results of their study confirmed what nutritionists and many doctors have been suggesting.
The consumption of apples in any form does seem to contribute to the fruit intake requirements in children and should be encouraged at all costs. Healthy Eating Index or HEI scores were used to measure diet quality and it was clearly established that children who consumed apple products and whole apples had higher HEI scores as compared to others, with those consuming whole apples having the best scores. Likewise, the group consuming apples also showed healthier scores when calculating Body Mass Index or BMI.
The role of parents is critical as primary care givers, as they as they have the greatest influence on a child's eating habits and food choices. While you don't need to put your child on an apple diet to lose weight, it should also be kept in mind that healthy eating habits are best cultivated at an early age.
Common Sense Approaches to Childhood ObesityMaintaining healthy body weight is important right from childhood. It is important to strike a balance with a child's diet, providing adequate nutrition for growth and development without being excessively high in calories. At the same time, adequate physical activity is essential to maintain that balance.
Here are Some Simple Tips to Prevent Obesity in Children:
- Inculcate healthy eating habits
- Include plenty of fresh fruits, veggies and whole grains in regular meals
- Include low fat milk and dairy products
- Meats are part of a balanced meal but should be consumed in moderation and should ideally include low fat meats, poultry and fish. Vegetarians should consume more beans, pulses, sprouts and soya or tofu for protein.
- Serve smaller meals, with more frequent fruit snacks between meals
- Increase hydration with greater water intake while avoiding processed drinks, colas and sweetened juices.
- Limit the intake of fried, oily and other junk foods
- Make healthy food substitutions. For example, encourage homemade smoothies and homemade sorbets instead of ice creams and other deserts; serve a fish steak instead of a beef steak; instead of a sandwich with chocolate flavored peanut butter, offer your child a bowl of cereal.
- Encourage your child to be physically active. Outdoor sports and athletic activities help to stimulate physical growth and studies also show that children who spend more time outdoors are less prone to depression and psychological problems as compared to kids who spend most of their time indoors watching TV and playing video games.
- Start to inculcate healthy eating habits in your child by taking the first step yourself. Correct your unhealthy eating habits and set an example as kids are quick learners and are skilled at rationalizing and justifying unhealthy habits that appeal to them!
References:O'Neil CE, Nicklas TA, Fulgoni VL 3rd. Consumption of apples is associatedwith a better diet quality and reduced risk of obesity in children: NationalHealth and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003-2010. Nutr J. 2015 May14;14:48. doi: 10.1186/s12937-015-0040-1. PubMed PMID: 25971247; PubMed CentralPMCID: PMC4443546.