In 2016, the World Health Organisation released the final report from its Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity.
The results? It expects the number of overweight children to balloon from 42 million in 2013 to 70 million by 2025. And, it warns: “Obese infants and children are likely to continue being obese during adulthood and are more likely to develop a variety of health problems as adults.” These include diabetes, heart disease, stroke, joint problems and a higher risk of getting endometrial, breast and colon cancers.
In SG, overweight kids are far more likely to become overweight adults, found Singapore’s Health Promotion Board (HPB) in its latest study on obesity from 2017. In fact, seven in 10 children who are overweight at age 7 will remain that way well into their adult years.
This flies in the face of the popular belief that chubby kids will eventually outgrow their baby fat, said Dr. Annie Ling, who is director of the HPB’s policy, research and surveillance division. Her team’s findings were part of a large-scale study of the Singapore population over nearly 30 years to find out when people start putting on weight and how obesity trends have changed.
This information can help researchers understand the points in a person’s life at which intervention is most needed, so as to prevent overall obesity rates from rising even further. For example, one in 10 children in Singapore are overweight by age five. Due in large part to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, those who put on weight as children no longer lose it as easily as they used to, said Dr. Ling.
So if you intend to help cultivate good eating habits for your children, start with these tips from food authors Poppy Stamateris and Marika Gouveros.
Hunger is the enemy of a healthy child. When children come back from a full day of school, their tummies are usually starting to grumble, so having either an early dinner or a healthy snack prepared as soon as they get through the door will fill them up on nutrition instead of sugar. Opt for carrot sticks and hummus, fruit, and other vegetable-based snacks.
Children’s palates are more complex than we assume, and if we expose them at a young age to all sorts of flavours, we can easily tackle the idea of a fussy eater before it develops. Incorporate a whole host of vegetables, herbs and spices into your meals, and it will teach your kids to appreciate natural, wholesome flavours.
It’s easy to play by the “if you eat all of your dinner, you can have a treat” line but all this does is encourage bad habits. When the treats are chocolates, biscuits or ice cream, kids hear: “I’ll reward you for the struggle of getting through dinner by giving you something that’s yummy”. This creates a negative image of what’s on their plate and makes them even less likely to like it.
If children do not get enough sleep, they seek out high sugar, high fat foods to recharge those batteries. Every parent knows how difficult it is to redirect a tired, frustrated and hungry child who has seen a shiny, colourful packet of something they shouldn’t eat. Instead, make consistent sleep patterns, which allows for both growth, a balance routine and a healthy attitude towards food.
The most effective classrooms for healthy eating are the dinner table, fridge and pantry. Remember, adult eating habits are shaped in childhood so fill your fridge with healthy, fresh produce rather than processed products as kids will only bear the hunger for so long until they reach for whatever’s available.
Text adapted from www.youngparents.com.sg and www.straitstimes.com/ Lynn Wee, 20 August 2018
More on The Finder:
Don’t miss out! Like our Facebook page for event updates and more.