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Preventing obesity in childhood

childhood obesityPhoto: Shutterstock

Childhood obesity in Singapore has been on the rise over the past few years, which should be a cause for concern due to its association with a number of health-related problems, including hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer.


Nevertheless, excessive weight loss should also be discouraged in young children, as their bodies require energy and nutrients for normal growth and development. As such, focus should be placed on maintaining a healthy weight.

Following these guidelines to help your child do so:

Be a good role model
Setting a good example and leading a healthy lifestyle as parents or caregivers is the first step in preventing childhood obesity. Obesity increases the risk of chronic medical diseases in both children and adults, so fixing unhealthy eating habits will protect your entire family from them.

Maintain a healthy diet

A balanced diet is essential for the growth and development of every child. Encourage healthy eating by including a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole-grain products, lean meat, fish and beans in daily meals. Additionally, instead of sugar-sweetened beverages, encourage your child to drink lots of water.

Develop healthy eating habits by limiting calorie-rich snacks. Replace these with low-sugar and low-fat treats such as a cup of blueberries or a medium-sized banana.


Prepare meals with your child
Teach your child about nutrition and making healthy decisions by involving them in grocery shopping, planning and preparing meals. By doing so, you can also learn more their food preferences and determine new ways to make their favourite meals healthier.

Adopt an active lifestyle
Encourage your children to participate in at least one hour of physical activity each day. Get active as a family regularly by hiking, cycling or taking part in recreational activities like martial arts and dance classes as well as joining sports teams.
Explain to your children the benefits of being physically active apart from weight control. These include the strengthening of bones, increasing self-esteem and helping them to relax and recharge.


Limit sedentary time
Apart from adopting an active lifestyle, limiting “screen time” – the time children spend on the internet, video games or television – to fewer than two hours per day also reportedly plays a part in preventing obesity.
Furthermore, parents should discourage their children from watching television while having their meals, as the distraction could result in overeating.


Go on regular wellness check-ups
Schedule regular wellness exams, at least once a year, for your child to receive a complete physical examination and to monitor his growth – ensuring that his or her weight, height and body mass index (BMI) are all in the healthy range.  A large increase in your child’s BMI over one year may indicate risk of obesity.
Consult your paediatrician on whether your child should consume multivitamins or supplements to meet his or her nutritional requirements. As they do so, remember to highlight to adolescents that weight-loss supplements may be dangerous and should only be used as directed by a qualified health care provider.


Get enough sleep
Children typically need around 12 hours of sleep while adolescents need about nine hours every night. Ensure your child gets enough rest, as he or she may be at risk of becoming overweight with insufficient sleep.