Kool Kids Kicking
How to get couch potatoes up off the couch and eating their greens.
Over the last ten years, the proportion of overweight children in Britain aged under four increased from one sixth to one quarter. So, what's been happening? Well, the Janet and John picture of an idyllic childhood probably went out the window at just about the moment that computer games and TV took over as chief entertainers. First, parents don't have the time. Second, children don't have the time, as schools have become increasingly competitive and exams set for younger and younger age groups.
Schools nowadays generally put less emphasis on sport and some schools have even been seduced by the big fizzy-drinks manufacturers into using school as a battleground for 'brand awareness', fighting for loyalty in vending machines sited in school corridors. No wonder our kids are supersizing along with their extra portions of chips.
If you suspect your child is overweight (check out www.keepkidshealthy.com to see if your fears are justified), you might just want to take the 'mote' out of your own eye and get your own house in order. Look at your own eating and exercise habits as children generally take their parents' lead. Perhaps it's time to take a good hard look at the family's lifestyle and do something drastic. Limit TV to a maximum of an hour on school nights and an hour and a quarter at weekends. Use the weekend to get into exercising as a family. Activities such as walking and swimming are easy and fun or joining a running club or a martial arts club (fantastic for kids' confidence). You could even get other parents involved and get a rota going. Taking kids to a farmer's market can be a fun activity and the different sights and colours and will show them 'real' food in a stimulating environment.
Never put a young child on a diet as this will often give you and your child problems later on, as they might develop complexes that degenerate into disordered eating. Instead, guide them gently towards healthy choices so that instead of saying 'no' all the time, you're saying 'yes' because of the abundance of fresh fruit and veg available. Preparing vegetables with dips like hummous is a great way to make kids eat vegetables and making desserts that include fruit is a great way to try and get more portions eaten - apple crumble is easy to make. Make a wall chart listing the colours and number of portions of fruit they've eaten in a week and score it with glittery stars. Consider a non-food treat for plenty of stars at the end of the month.
Although you can't control what happens outside the home, you can control what food your kid comes into contact with inside the home. Therefore, don't keep unhealthy, fattening food at home. Better choices if they seem to need a snack are chopped apple and a small piece of cheese, oatcakes or carrots with hummous, bananas and nuts (nuts aren't suitable for small children as they can choke). Add extra toppings on take-way pizza to make it more nutritious and more filling, and limit the portion size.
Introducing all of the above early on will save a great deal of pain down the road.
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