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Is your child fat? Diet dos

Kanchan Maslekar
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June 28, 2006

If your child is overweight, then you are largely to blame. Sure, that sounds harsh but this is probably the truth.

"Parents play a crucial role in controlling and tackling obesity. They must understand that they are role models for their children," says Dr Bhave. 

So where does one begin? When your baby is in the womb.

"Early and appropriate intervention from infancy and, in fact, from the womb is a must," recommends Dr Bhave.

So expectant mothers, try not to gain excess weight during pregnancy. Promote breastfeeding and delay the introduction of solid foods.

Even if your child is not obese, inculcate good eating and exercise habits when they are little. They will thank you for it later.

Here we tell you how to make sure your child eats and stays healthy. And, if s/he is obese, how to tackle it. But do realise, you cannot eat what you want and restrict your child. Inculcate healthy eating habits for the entire family and not just for the kids.

Eat smart

~ Stock up on healthy snacks. Puffed chips instead of fried ones, wheat or soya biscuits instead of the maida ones, or nuts and dry fruits instead of cream biscuits. Popcorn is great without too much butter, of course.

The fewer unhealthy snacks you keep at home, the less tempting for your child.

~ Substitute aerated drinks with fresh juice. Encourage your child to drink a lot of water though.

~ Avoid too much readymade junk food like burgers and pizzas. Indulge in these only on weekends or a birthday. Instant foods too should not be encouraged too often. Try as much as possible to have healthy, home cooked meals.

~ Encourage your child to eat fresh, seasonal fruit.

~ Avoid using too much butter/oil /ghee while cooking. Develop the child's taste for steamed, grilled and microwaved food instead of fried stuff.

~ A lot depends on the visual presentation. Serve the food in interesting ways so that even if it does not contain much butter and sugar, the child wants to eat it.

For instance, put a lot of veggies on a chapatti and top it with some low fat cheese. There, you have an Indian pizza for your child.

~ Avoid foods that are high in calories, fat or sugar. This includes colas, chips, desserts, cakes, pastires, mithai and chocolates. Be vigilant about this at least until your child has lost some weight.

~ If your child really likes fast food (as most children do) make them at home, the healthy way. For instance, use a chapatti instead of a readymade pizza base or wheat bread instead of pav. Add lots of veggies to the noodles. If you are making pizza use a base made of wheat flour instead of maida.

~ Maintain a regular time for snacks and meals. Avoid watching television while snacking/eating.

~ Teach your child to eat slowly.

~ Avoid serving portions that are too large.

Get physical

Low-fat snacks are not sufficient. Children need to play. So your next task will be to introduce a good exercise/activity regime.

Encourage your child to take up a sport or any other outdoor activity. There are many to choose from: cycling, roller skating, football, cricket, basketball, swimming.

But, it would be nice if the entire family took an interest in physical activities. If you have access to a pool, go swimming. Or else, just go for long walks.

Otherwise, plan special active family-outings such as hikes or treks.

If you have a garden, get the entire family to contribute to the gardening.
Have a car? Take turns washing it.
Have a lawn? Take turns mowing it.
If you have none, then vacuuming the floor is an option.

Encourage all sorts of activity. Teach your child how to set the table and clear it. Or at least take his plate in when he is done. If a little older, s/he can learn to wash the dishes. Or, maybe just dry them.

Discourage too much of computer or video games. Television viewing must be monitored or else your child could turn into a couch potato.

Get real

The stigma of being called 'fatso' can emotionally scar your child for life. Do your best to make your child feel special. 

An obese child must never be made to feel different or be excluded from physical activities.

Even if obese, do not force the child into a dieting programme as if it were a punishment. Talk to your child and explain the benefits of losing weight.

Then set realistic goals, be it for physical activity or reduction of weight. If it is not achievable, the child is likely to get discouraged.

Finally, praise your child when s/he makes a healthy food choice or indulges in physical activity. Reward your child when s/he loses weight. However, let it not be food or watching television! Try a visit to a theme park or buying a special toy.

Similarly, do not punish your child by taking away his/her food.

Part I: Why your child is obese

Is your child overweight? Do you have healthy diet tips/recipe ideas to share with other parents? Post your tips and experiences

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Number of User Comments: 2

Sub: Indian Style

Try to post articles according to Indian circumstances, food styles when you say it is How many Middle class homes have car, lawn, vaccum ...

Posted by vijay

Sub: Eating Habits

Nice artical. My son is 4 years old. Goes to Jr K.G. and eats everything I give him. I allow Chips once in a month ...

Posted by Sony


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