The sight of fat, rosy children is just so adorable. And of course advertisements of fat happy children are all over the TV too. But the reality is that obesity in children is a huge worry for parents all over the world. Parents would love to see their children looking so healthy but the fact is that obesity in children is hugely worrying problem affecting children only in the developed world.
It’s simple; you don’t see the problem in Africa and Asia where children are of a normal weight or even underweight. The reason for that is people walk everywhere in these countries. A simple walk to the local market can be about five miles and back. Of course the standard of living is also much lesser than that of advanced countries. So they can’t really afford junk food and carbonated drinks; its just three square meals and that’s it! But that’s not an excuse to allow children to put on weight indiscriminately!

The statistics can be scary!

Its official! The latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that about 16% of children in the age group of 6-19 years old are obese and these are the statistics of 1980. Since then the percentage has tripled! In addition to the 165 of children which are considered to be overweight, more than 15% more are at risk of getting obese!

Causes of obesity in developed countries-

1. Nuclear families are the norm in developed countries with both parents from a working back ground. After completing a hectic full day of work, no one really has the time or strength to buy groceries and then make a nutritious two course meal for the family and then complete the housework! It’s just too tiring! And of course, being so smart are also quick to take advantage and ask their parents frequently for take out food. Tired parents just give in to prevent temper tantrums and to show their love and prevent the guilty pangs they feel!

2. As a result, late in the evening you’ll see parents with children at TACOBELL and MCDONALDS enjoying full fat and high cholesterol food which will show some where! And the result is obese parents and obese children!

3. Snacking while ‘verging’ out in front of the TV is also pretty common! Children are fed snacks like chips, dips and carbonated drinks which contain large amounts of sugar and fats. These are bound to show an effect sooner or later!

4. Of course, not all obesity in children is due to a fat-filled diet; medical causes are also possible. But of the thousands of children who are overweight only a small percentage can blame their weight problems on medical conditions. And that means that the vast majority of obese children are due to self-induced over eating!

How do you know if your child is obese?

Well, obviously just looking at them to see whether they’re overweight is not enough! There are several methods that you can check to see whether your child is overweight and they are-

1. Body mass index- this is a specific calculation by which you can decide how much weight is ideal for your child as regarding his height and age. Its best to get this calculation at a doctor as you may misunderstand the results. Doctors can also check to see that there are no metabolic conditions or diseases responsible for your child’s weight gain.

2. Body fat percentage- is another method which is also effective in finding how much fat you have in your body. This is also done by a medical practitioner who does it with the help of special medical equipment.

What can you do as a parent to control your child’s eating problem?

It’s going to be difficult to control your child’s eating! We all want the best for our children….in fact that’s half the reason why we work so hard; for ourselves and our family! And when you have to actively stop your child form over-eating it can be traumatic for all concerned. But unless you do this right now; you’re just signing your child up for a world of health problems later on in their adult life! A few steps you should take immediately are-

1. Take your child to local community centers where they can see how children and adults of a lower income bracket struggle to have a single meal. Encourage them to set an example by donating a single meal everyday from their daily food to the homeless. It sets an awareness that not everybody is as well as off as they are. You can also help them to start a group food donation drive at school for children abroad and in famine hit regions.

2. Talk to a dietician immediately to control what you cook at home and what you feed your child. After all it’s you as the parent who will be doing the marketing and if you don’s buy dangerous snack foods; then there’s nothing for your child to snack on! Switch over to healthier alternatives like –

• Fresh fruit and fresh fruit juices or commercial fruit juices without any added sugars.

• Preserved dry fruits like raisins, walnuts and apricots

• Fresh crudités like baby carrots, cucumber, zucchini, or tomatoes served with low-fat sauces

• Cheese sticks and peanut butter on crackers

• Low-fat fruit yoghurt

Diet is the best way to make sure that you have a strict control on your weight and that of your family. The main thing to remember is that the low-fat diet should in force for the entire family and it works. We had the same problems of being working parents who took children out for evening meals but not now! Our daughter is now a fashion model and she’s a healthy weight. She’s learned to eat healthily and moderately at health food stores and that means no extremes! What more could you ask for?

The bottom line is that good food habits can be learned at an early age and the earlier you set them for your children the better!