Nutrition - Tuck into a healthy headstart
The early years of a child’s development are a crucial period to develop good eating habits and avoiding obesity in later years. Dietetics Manager For Wei Chek shares nutrition tips on developing a healthy diet from young.
What causes childhood obesity?
It is mainly due to an imbalance of calories. Children now consume high calories from fried food, fast food, unhealthy snacks and sugary soft drinks. Meanwhile, they are burning fewer calories as they tend to engage in less physical activity. The excessive amount of calories accumulated then becomes body fat.
How can we prevent childhood obesity?
The early years of development between two to 12 years are critical as this is when children cultivate and develop their eating habits which will influence their eating patterns and health in future.
Stick to the recommended food portion sizes for children as they progress through the different ages. A child’s recommended daily calorie intake will depend on his weight, height, BMI, age, physical activity level, individual diet, food preference, food aversion and/or other underlying medical conditions. Do consult a qualified dietitian for a full dietary assessment. Children should also do at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on five or more days a week.
How can childhood obesity affect one’s health in future?
The child is more likely to grow up as an obese adult. He faces an increased risk of developing chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol (LDL-C level) among children and teenagers. He could also develop Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (difficulty in breathing while sleeping) and orthopaedic disorders like knee joint pain or deformity. He could also grapple with psychological problems due to low self-esteem and confidence, suffer from discrimination, stigmatization, become socially isolated and develop strained family or interpersonal relationships.
Is it possible to reverse obesity?
Obesity can be improved but it requires concerted efforts and a multi-disciplinary approach. Everyone from the school to healthcare professionals and government agencies, to the parents and the children themselves, play a part.
Parents can be role models by practising healthy lifestyles and eating habits. Encourage children to select healthier food choices with less fat, less oil and less sugar. Eat more fruit, vegetables and whole grain products. Also support and motivate children to make gradual changes in their diet or eating habits and encourage them to be more active and engage in regular exercise.
What’s a common mistake parents make?
Don’t use food, especially unhealthy foods, as a reward for your children's good behaviour or good exam results. Instead, use words of encouragement or small gifts. Parents should also discourage children from spending long hours in front of the TV, computer or technology gadgets without doing much physical activity.
Nutrition is an important determinant of good health. Our dietitian in Mount Alvernia Hospital specialises in nutrition and dietary issues. We offer inpatient & outpatient nutrition and Dietetics Services in Singapore.