How big a problem is being obese or overweight for children?
Not a week goes by without hearing something in the news about the rising problem of obesity in this country. It’s something we should all be concerned about, especially when you hear how many children are affected. Around one third of all children in the UK are currently above a healthy weight and this number is increasing year on year. It’s estimated that by 2050, two thirds of children will be obese or overweight.
There are of course some serious consequences of being obese, including an increased risk of coronary heart disease, strokes, diabetes and other health problems. Most parents are understandably keen to ensure that the eating patterns their children develop are healthy ones and I’m often asked by parents if the amounts of foods their babies are eating are normal or whether they are eating too much and at risk of becoming overweight. As I said in my last blog, making sure your baby is active is important too.
Starting weaning at the correct time and not too early (recommended weaning age is 6 months, although some babies may need weaning earlier, although not before 4 months) is key to reducing obesity risk. Once weaning has started, you should encourage your baby to eat a varied, balanced diet; unhealthy eating can ‘programme’ young children’s tastes for the rest of their lives. Weaning babies on pureed junk food, chocolate bars, crisps and fizzy sugary drinks just isn’t an option!
For more information on a good diet to feed your baby, have a look at these links:
Your health visitor will advise you on how often you should get your baby weighed to check they are gaining weight at the correct rate, and if you have any concerns you should have a chat with them.
Goodbye for now.
The importance of a healthy lifestyle for our children
The last few weeks have seen a huge amount of media coverage on the impact of diet and activity levels on the long-term health of our children. This follows the publication of two Government reports looking at these important areas.
The Department of Health commissioned SACN (Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition) to review the influence of maternal, fetal and child nutrition on the development of chronic disease (e.g. obesity, heart disease, diabetes) in later life.
They have also issued guidance on the level of activity we should all, including children, should undertake.
These reports highlight how important it is for us parents to encourage our children to take regular and sufficient physical activity and adopt a healthy lifestyle. Of course, we’re often hearing about how a good, well-balanced diet with sufficient, but not too much, energy is vital for good health at all stages of life, but this is the first time we’re being told how much exercise our young children should actually be doing.
In the UK, pre-school children have been shown to spend on average 2-2.5 hours a day being active, but the new recommendation is that they should do at least 3 hours per day, once they can walk unaided. This could be any form of activity, ranging from riding a bike, running, climbing, jumping, skipping, walking to swimming. Even before they can walk unaided, you should encourage your baby to take part in floor-based play such as rolling, reaching for and grasping things, pulling and pushing objects, and water-based activities. The report also discourages all of us from keeping our under 5s restrained in buggies, car seats or baby bouncers, or leaving them sitting in front of TV or computer screens, for extended periods.
Are your children active enough, what is their favourite activity, do you have any issues with this new recommendation, is this advice practical for you and your family? We’d love to hear from you.
Off for a run now!