Parents play a vital role in shaping children's attitudes to food. It's often easier to give children money for the tuck-shop instead of preparing a healthy lunch-box or even buying take-out because parents are too tired to cook when they get home. Get the whole family eating healthily. Changes in eating habits are more likely to stick if everyone in the house is doing the same thing and helping each other.
According to the SA Medical Research Council, 17% of South African children between 1 and 9 years old are overweight. Lack of exercise and eating too much food or eating the wrong types of foods are the leading causes of childhood obesity. Children are also more overweight because they're choosing to play computer games, Play Station or watch television instead of participating in sports, games, playing and other activities that keep them active and fit.
Many fast food and soft drink manufacturers target children through the media. Fast food commercials played during children's programmes, the gimmicky toys accompanying fast food meals, strategically placed sweet aisle (in perfect eye level with your children) on the way to the supermarket cash register and even some school tuck-shops, are providing a means to make our children obese. But habits can be changed.
Children are still growing, therefore parents need to slow down the rate of weight gain but not growth. Encourage an overall healthy lifestyle that includes the occasional "bad"
snack. Don't count kilojoules, rather teach children healthy eating habits that will last their entire lives.
Here are some tips to help you get started:
Eat breakfast! Give your children low fat milk and cereal, yoghurt and fruit, toast with peanut butter or smoothies for breakfast. If you're pressed for time, make sure they have something to eat in the car or while they are walking to school.
Pack a healthy lunch-box or insist that your child's school provides healthy options at the tuck-shop. Lunch-boxes should contain a brown or whole wheat sandwich with a low fat protein filling as well as some fruit and/or vegetables. Opt for water, fruit juice or low fat drinking yoghurt as a beverage.
Encourage them to eat 5 or more portions of fruit and vegetables daily.
Watch portion sizes. Instead of preparing 4 slices of white bread for school, pack in 2 slices of brown or whole wheat bread with fruit, water and yoghurt. At dinner time say no to seconds!
Eat healthier snacks. Swop chips for home-made popcorn or pretzels, chocolate and sweets for fruit, andice-cream for frozen yoghurt.
Change your cooking methods. Try grilling, baking or steaming foods instead of frying.
Cut down on time spent watching television, using the internet and playing Play Station games.
Get moving! Have a regular family day for playing games like soccer, tennis, swimming, hiking, cricket or just running around.
Encourage children to take up a summer and winter sport at school and try to attend when they have a match or event.
Never obsess about everything you or your child eats, what starts as healthy eating could easily become an eating disorder.
Remember! Moderation is the key to a healthy lifestyle.
For more information about the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA and healthy living visit www.heartfoundation.co.za or contact the Heart Mark Diet Line on 0860 223 222.