How to prevent childhood obesity in schools

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Unlock the solution to childhood obesity

Childhood obesity has reached epidemic levels in developed as well as in developing countries. Overweight and obesity in childhood are known to have a significant impact on both physical and psychological health. Overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and more likely to develop non-communicable diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age. The mechanism of obesity development is not fully understood and it is believed to be a disorder with multiple causes.

Environmental factors, lifestyle preferences, and cultural environment play pivotal roles in the rising prevalence of obesity worldwide. In general, overweight and obesity are assumed to be the results of an increase in caloric and fat intake. On the other hand, there are supporting evidence that excessive sugar intake by soft drink, increased portion size, and steady decline in physical activity have been playing major roles in the rising rates of obesity all around the world. Childhood obesity can profoundly affect children’s physical health, social, and emotional well-being, and self-esteem. It is also associated with poor academic performance and a lower quality of life experienced by the child. Many co-morbid conditions like metabolic, cardiovascular, orthopaedic, neurological, hepatic, pulmonary, and renal disorders are also seen in association with childhood obesity.

The world is undergoing a rapid epidemiological and nutritional transition characterized by persistent nutritional deficiencies, as evidenced by the prevalence of stunting, anaemia, and iron and zinc deficiencies. Concomitantly, there is a progressive rise in the prevalence of obesity, diabetes and other nutrition-related chronic diseases (NCDs) like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some forms of cancer. Obesity has reached epidemic levels in developed countries. The highest prevalence rates of childhood obesity have been observed in developed countries; however, its prevalence is increasing in developing countries as well Childhood Obesity can be prevented by the help of parents and other family members, by applying small changes in daily food habits. One can encourage healthy habits in their children by not giving high-calorie products to their children. The children should not be addicted to them. They should help their children to be physically active by regular games and exercise. Childhood Obesity can be prevented by reducing the amount of intake of carbonated drinks. Childhood Obesity can be prevented by encouraging your child to develop new habits by using sedentary lifestyles.

As a parent, few things are cuter than your full-cheeked baby or the chubby knees of your toddler. For some children, however, that adorable baby fat may turn into a health concern.
Today, nearly 1 out of 4 children and teens in developed countries are overweight or obese. Those extra pounds put kids at risk for developing serious health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and asthma. Childhood obesity also takes an emotional toll. Overweight children often have trouble keeping up with other kids and joining in sports and activities. Other kids may tease and exclude them, leading to low self-esteem, negative body image, and even depression.

If you’re watching your child struggle with their weight, you may feel alone or helpless; in reality, you are neither. There’s plenty you can do to help your kids. Diagnosing weight problems and obesity in children as early as possible can reduce their risk of developing serious medical conditions as they get older. And by getting the whole family involved, you can break the cycle of weight problems and obesity, boost your children’s physical and mental health, and help them establish a healthy relationship with food that will last a lifetime. Whatever your children’s weight, let them know that you love them and that all you want to do is help them be healthy and happy.

children grow at different rates at different times, so it is not always easy to tell if a child is overweight. Body mass index (BMI) uses height and weight measurements to estimate how much body fat a child has. However, while BMI is usually a good indicator, it is NOT a perfect measure of body fat and can even be misleading at times when children are experiencing periods of rapid growth.
If your child registers a high BMI-for-age measurement, your health care provider may need to perform further assessments and screenings to determine if excess fat is a problem.

Causes:

Understanding how children become overweight in the first place is an important step toward breaking the cycle. Most cases of childhood obesity are caused by eating too much and exercising too little. Children need enough food to support healthy growth and development. But when they take in more calories than they burn throughout the day, the result is weight gain.

Causes of weight problems in children may include:

• Busy families cooking at homeless and eating out more.
• Easy access to cheap, high-calorie fast food and junk food.
• Bigger food portions, both in restaurants and at home.
• Kids consuming huge amounts of sugar in sweetened drinks and hidden in an array of foods.
• Kids spending less time actively playing outside, and more time watching TV, playing video games, and sitting at the computer.

• Many schools eliminating or cutting back their physical education programs.
Healthy habits start at home. The best way to fight or prevent childhood obesity and weight problems is to get the whole family on a healthier track. Making better food choices and becoming more active will benefit everyone, regardless of weight.
You can also make a huge impact on your children’s health by getting involved with the details of their lives. Spending time with your kids—talking about their day, playing, reading, cooking—can supply them with the self-esteem boost they may need to make positive changes.
Recognize that you have more control than you might think. You can turn off the TV, computer, or video game. You can choose to get off the bus one stop earlier than usual and walk the rest of the way, especially when you are with your kids. You can give your family more vegetables for dinner.

Think about the immediate benefits. If reducing the risk of future heart disease seems abstract, focus on the good things that can happen right now. You won’t feel uncomfortably full if you have a smaller portion or skip dessert. Going hiking with your teenager might lead to a wonderful talk that neither of you anticipated. Dancing or playing with your kids is lots of fun and can give you a great workout.

Make small, easy changes over time. Suggesting that family members take a run together every day will probably get you lots of eye-rolling. It’s easier and more appealing to start with some new approaches to nutrition and physical activity that the whole family is willing to try. For example, take a walk after dinner a couple of nights a week instead of turning on the TV.

Make healthier food choices.

While you may need to make major changes to your family’s eating habits, changing everything at once usually leads to cheating or giving up. Instead, start by making small, gradual steps towards healthy eating—like adding a salad to dinner every night or swapping out French fries for steamed vegetables—rather than one big drastic switch. As small changes become a habit, you can continue to add more healthy choices.
Eat the rainbow. Serve and encourage consumption of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. This should include red (beets, tomatoes), orange (carrots, squash), yellow (potatoes, bananas), green (lettuce, broccoli) and so on—just like eating a rainbow.
Make breakfast a priority. Children who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight or obese than those who skip the first meal of the day. It’s important to focus on healthy choices, though, like oatmeal, fresh fruit, whole-grain cereal high in fibre and low in sugar, and low-fat milk instead of sugary cereals, doughnuts, or toaster pastries.

Look for hidden sugar. Reducing the amount of candy and desserts you and your child eat is only part of the battle. Sugar is also hidden in foods as diverse as bread, canned soups, pasta sauce, instant mashed potatoes, frozen dinners, low-fat meals, fast food, and ketchup. The body gets all it needs from sugar naturally occurring in food—so anything added amounts to nothing but a lot of empty calories. Check labels and opt for low sugar products and use fresh or frozen ingredients instead of canned goods.
Not all fats contribute to weight gain. So instead of trying to cut out fat from your child’s diet, focus on replacing unhealthy fats with healthy fats.
Avoid trans fats that are dangerous to your child’s health. Try to eliminate or cut back on commercially-baked goods packaged snack foods, fried foods, and anything with “partially hydrogenated” oil in the ingredients, even if it claims to be trans fat-free.
Add more healthy fats that can help a child control blood sugar and avoid diabetes. Unsaturated or “good” fats include avocados, olive oil, nuts, fatty fish, soy, tofu, flaxseed, Brussels sprouts, kale, and spinach.

Choose saturated fat wisely. The USDA recommends limiting saturated fat to 10 per cent of your child’s daily calories. Focus on the source of saturated fats consumed: A glass of whole milk or natural cheese rather than a hot dog, doughnut, or pastry, for example, or grilled chicken or fish instead of fried chicken.
Look for hidden sugar. Reducing the amount of candy and desserts
Don’t ban sweets entirely. While many kids’ consume too much sugar, having a no sweets rule is an invitation for cravings and overindulging when given the chance. Instead, limit the number of cookies, candies, and baked goods your child eats and introduce fruit-based snacks and desserts instead.

Limit juice, soda, and coffee drinks. Soft drinks are loaded with sugar and shakes and coffee drinks can be just as bad. Many juices aren’t any better nutritionally, so offer your child sparkling water with a twist of lime, fresh mint, or a splash of fruit juice instead used to be commonplace to find children running around and playing in the streets of their neighbourhoods, naturally expending energy and getting exercise. In today’s world, that’s not always an option, but you still have options for boosting their activity level.

Get your kids moving

Play active indoor games. Put the remote away and organize some active indoor games. You can play tag (perhaps crawling tag, so that you keep messes to a minimum), hide-and-seek, or Simon Says (think jumping jacks and stretches).
Try activity-based video games, such as those from Wii and Kinect which are played standing up and moving around—simulating dancing, skateboarding, soccer, bowling, or tennis. Once your child gains in confidence, get away from the screen and play the real thing outside.

Get active outside with your child. Take a walk together, bike around the neighbourhood, explore a local park, visit a playground, or play in the yard. If it makes sense for your neighbourhood and schedule, walk to and from activities and school.
Do chores together. Perhaps it’s not your child’s first choice, but doing household chores is a very effective way to get exercise. Mopping, sweeping, taking out the trash, dusting or vacuuming burns a surprising number of calories.

Enrol children in after school sports or other activities. If your budget allows, sign children up to play a sport or get involved in an activity where they are physically active. The local YMCA, YWCA, or Boys’ and Girls’ Club are safe places for children to exercise and play.
Sign up for a 5 or 10K walk/run with your child. Sometimes having a goal in mind can motivate even the most reluctant exercisers. Find a kid-friendly event in your area and tell your child you’ll be “training” for it together. Be sure to celebrate when you accomplish this feat.
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Keep snacks small. Don’t turn snacks into a meal. Limit them to 100 to 150 calories.
Go for reduced-sugar options. When buying foods such as syrups, jellies, and sauces, opt for products labelled “reduced sugar” or “no added sugar.”
Focus on fruit. Keep a bowl of fruit out for your children to snack on—kids love satsuma or tangerine oranges. And offer fruit as a sweet treat—frozen juice bars, fruit smoothies, strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream, fresh fruit added to plain yoghurt, or sliced apples with peanut butter.

Experiment with herbs and spices. Use sweet-tasting herbs and spices such as mint, cinnamon, allspice, or nutmeg to add sweetness to food without the empty calories.
Check the sugar content of your kid’s cereal. There’s a huge disparity in the amount of added sugar between different brands of cereal. Some cereals are more than 50% sugar by weight. Try mixing a low sugar, high-fibre cereal with your child’s favourite sweetened cereal, or add fresh or dried fruit to oatmeal for a naturally sweet taste.

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