Obesity is one of the biggest threats facing our kids today – but you can help your kids grow up fit, healthy and strong. Here’s how to ditch the fries and fizzy drinks, turn off the TV and get them fit while you both have fun.
Childhood obesity has reached such high levels in the UK it is described as an epidemic – 31.2% of children aged between 2 and 15 are overweight (Public Health England, 2016). Why? It’s simple – the combination of an unhealthy diet with not doing enough exercise to burn off the calories consumed.
Obesity causes a range of problems in later life, such as:
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- psychological problems such low self-esteem
The good news is that there’s plenty we can do to make sure our kids grow up fit and healthy, liking nutritious food as much as junk, and happier to be haring around the park than glued to their PlayStations.
The earlier you get them into good habits, the better. It isn’t always easy, though, so we’ve tackled some of the most common problems to help you along the way.
What to avoid
Everyone knows that foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt are bad for kids. So, encourage your child to eat the following in moderation, or avoid them altogether:
- ready meals
- fizzy drinks
- chocolate and sweets
Luckily, what children like to eat and drink is shaped by what we feed them when they’re babies and toddlers, so give them plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables – all toddlers love carrot sticks, for example. And giving them lots of milk and water instead of sugary drinks will help avoid tooth decay.
How can I drag them away from the TV?
For starters, make sure they don’t have a TV in their bedroom.
“This is one of the most important things you can do,” says Richard Gott from Play England. “Take the TV out of your bedroom too, to set a good example. Then make exercise a family habit.”
“Set aside time every weekend to be active together – go to the park or woods, play football, ride your bikes or fly a kite.”
The local playground is rubbish – what can I do?
There are plenty of things kids can do with you around the house to stay fit. Give them active chores to do, such as:
- mowing the lawn
- raking leaves
- washing the car
- walking the dog
It’s surprising how much fun you can have doing these things together – and of course it’s an opportunity for your child to earn more pocket money if they do chores every week.
And, when they’re old enough, let them play outside – once you’ve taught them road safety and set a few boundaries.
“The most important thing we can do is let our kids off the leash and let them play,” says Richard. “We’re so scared of letting kids go out to play now, but it’s essential for their physical and mental development.”
What else can we do together?
Kids love messing about in the park with their dads – whether it’s playing frisbee, kicking a ball about or climbing trees. One tip is to keep a box of stuff in the car, full of:
- tennis balls
- badminton rackets and a shuttlecock
- footballs and rugby balls
You’ve then got them to hand every time you go to the park.
“Whatever you do, make it fun,” says Richard. “Have a mini Olympics in the park with your kids and their mates, or set them juggling challenges. Children have bags of energy and a natural drive to play – all you have to do is give them the opportunity to express it.”
And it’s not just kids that benefit from being a bit more active. Having children is a great excuse to be a big kid, and it’s a good way to keep that belly at bay, too…
Public Health England, P. H., 2016. Public Health England. [Online] Available at: http://www.noo.org.uk/NOO_about_obesity/child_obesity [Accessed 12 07 2016].