Occasional treats

Kid making decisionThe headline was confronting: “Parents blind to child obesity”. A recent report in The Australian quoted a British study which found that most parents fail to recognise the true weight status of their children. Most didn’t think their children were overweight, and in some cases did not even recognise that their kids were obese. This is despite the evidence in Britain that almost a third of Year 6 are overweight.

We have no reason to presume that parents here are any different. A simple visit to a shopping centre in school holidays tells us that, at best, many parents are happy to ‘take a meal off’ when it comes to feeding their kids. At worst, it makes you wonder how these kids typically eat?

The rubbish food that is available is scary when you consider that our childhood overweight/obesity is statistically at 25%, yet parents continue to allow their kids to eat in this way. If it’s the occasional treat it might be OK, but what constitutes ‘occasional’? This word is a bit like the advice to eat anything in ‘moderation’. What’s occasional for one parent is very different to what might be occasional for another, just as what’s moderate for some is extreme for others. How often should an occasional treat occur?

With Easter and the school holidays upon us, be prepared to be horrified by food choices of kids – and their parents – in food courts. Have a look around. Which food outlets are the busiest? How often do you see kids eating junk, and how often are their parents eating the same foods? Is the problem actually the children pressuring the parents, or is the parents using their children as an excuse to eat these foods themselves?

If you’re the parent or grandparent looking after kids these holidays, have an honest look at them. Are they overweight? Do they have a little roll around the middle? Have you ever caught yourself justifying it with “It’s just puppy fat” or “They’ll grow out of it”? Research suggests that they won’t grow out of it. Put bluntly, fat kids become fat adults.

The old saying “when we were kids” might be cliched, but times have certainly changed and with them, obviously, so has the health of the population. Kids and adults are fatter, less active, and spend more time sitting in front of screens than ever before. Kids are entertained and often well-behaved with this method of baby-sitting, but it’s not doing their health or their habit development any favours.

These holidays, make some effort to limit screen-time. Get the kids outside, being active, playing and having fun. Play with them. If you can’t stand the pester-power at the food court, avoid the food court. Engage the kids in helping to prepare some meals. Teach them good food habits, where they rely on fresh, natural foods for the majority of the time. The truly occasional treat will then be an insignificant part of their overall diet. Their weight and their health will be better off for it.

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