According to NHS Choices, around 24-38% of children (depending on age and gender) are overweight or obese. Obesity has been linked with physical and mental health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and depression.
An NHS article on obesity rates suggests that the combination of several factors contribute to the obesity epidemic, including “easy access to cheap, calorie-rich, nutrient-poor foods and drinks”, and an “increasingly sedentary lifestyle” (for both parents and children).
The prevalence of obesity is higher in older children (11-15 year olds), suggesting that habits learned at a young age can influence children as they grow older. If a young child has poor lifestyle habits (such as an unbalanced diet and little physical activity), this may be more likely to continue into their teens and beyond.
Therefore it is important to not only encourage your child to eat healthily and exercise, but to also teach them why this is important, to help children continue with these healthy habits as they become more independent.
Family meal times and healthy eating
- Cook with your children. Use fresh ingredients and make a variety of dishes.
- Grow your own fruit and vegetables. Children will love the gardening, watching their plants grow and then harvesting and eating their crops.
- Try to make time for regular family meals where you can chat about your interests and life experiences.
As lives are so busy it is hard to find time to spend together as a family. Regular family meals are great at providing children with a routine, valuable time with family and a chance to take time away from a rushed ‘food on the go’ culture we are adopting rapidly.
Research also shows that family meals may be linked with lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher exam grades and self-esteem.
Eating nutritious foods and being physically active are particularly important for children and adolescents as a healthy lifestyle will only have a positive influence on their physical and mental developments.
Fresh, home cooked foods are far healthier than any shop bought one and you know exactly what ingredients have been used and their quantities.
Encouraging children to exercise
- Spend time playing sports in the park or garden instead of playing on the computer or watching TV.
- Get your child to participate in sporting extra curricular activities. For example, they could join a football team or take swimming lessons.
Children naturally love taking part in active play, and this is the superfood of a balanced play diet. Research shows that children find active play enjoyable and engage in it to stave off boredom; however, factors such as bad weather and fear of groups of teenagers in their play spaces can restrict play. Finding a safe area for your child to play, and looking for indoor activities that encourage exercise, can help motivate children to get active.
See our article on encouraging a healthy lifestyle to find out how superhero play can teach children about being fit and healthy, as well as more fun ideas to get children active.