Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Is your child overweight?

Although it is fairly easy to calculate the number of kilojoules an adult requires per day - based on age, gender, health and activity levels – the same cannot be said for children. Children have different energy requirements to an adult, and a higher need for nutrient dense food; that’s nutrient dense, not kilojoule dense. If a child is overweight, rather look at the kind of food he or she is consuming and the amount of exercise he or she is getting.

A formalized diet doesn’t work for children any more than it does for an adult; children need to be shown, by example, how to make healthy food choices. This means choosing fruit and vegetables over sweets and fatty foods. Fish fingers, chicken nuggets and fruit juices are frequent menu items for most children – these are high in kilojoules for the nutrition they supply. Far rather offer plain fish or chicken, and always dilute fruit juice half-and-half with water. Just one teaspoon of fat equals about 792kjoules, as opposed to a teaspoon of protein or carbohydrate which equates to about 374kjoules.

Children are by nature energetic – they like to run about and explore, and they are continually testing and learning about their environment and the people and things in it. In contrast, when mum and dad get home from work, they are often mentally exhausted and just want to sit and relax. Generally, children want to spend time with their parents, and will choose a sedentary activity just so they can be in the same room. Sedentary activities such as playing computer games or watching television burn up far fewer kilojoules than taking the dog for a walk, doing some gardening or riding a bicycle. All of which can be fun for the family. If the climate you live in doesn't encourage outdoor activities, a Wii is a great indoor alternative..

As a parent, you are a role model for your children. Don’t apply rigorous dietary strictures to an overweight child – singling out one child and treating him or her differently from the rest of the family will only cause conflict, unhappiness and, possibly, future food related issues. If your child is overweight, then the only way forward is for everyone in the family to take steps towards healthy eating in the home.

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