Childhood obesity is one of the health problems públic To the gravest of the 21ST century, according to the World Health Organization.
And increasingly, children from low-and middle-income countries, especially in the urban environment, are affected by obesity.
But it has not been unnoticed that the city of Leeds, in the north of England, is the only one in the United Kingdom that seems to follow the opposite trend: In recent years, the rates of obesity have been reduced by 6.4%.
A key element in the city’s strategy to tackle the obesity problem was to focus on preschoolers and teach their parents how to encourage their children to eat healthy.
But it’s not always easy for parents to understand how to touch the food issue with their kids. What is the best way to do it then?
Can children be forced to eat healthy?
1. Offers options
Tina offers workshops in London for parents similar to those made in Leeds.
It tells you that involving children in deciding what to eat from an early age, offering to choose between two healthy alternatives, can help them choose healthy foods.
Give them two healthy choices to choose from so they feel they can decide what they eat. » This can help minimize the risk of completely rejecting a food and helps them feel in control, «he says.
«When we don’t give them a choice, they may think we don’t listen to them and feel a little frustrated.»
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2. Small steps
Anna Groom, a child nutritionist, admits that it is not always easy when the child is crafty for food.
Groom argues that starting with small changes can reduce pressure at mealtime and avoid fighting.
It is important to incorporate changes in meals gradually. » It is important that they have some food that we know they like, but we can also introduce something new on their plate in a very small amount, he says.
To Belinda Mould This method worked very well with his 3-year-old daughter, who used to eat only sausages and beans.
«If we gave him something different, he would throw it on the floor or ignore it and eat nothing,» Mould explains to the BBC.
But he says that after giving him regular small amounts of new foods, his daughter now eats almost everything.
«I say, ‘ eat a bite just to try it and if you don’t like it, you can eat something else, ‘» says Mould.
«You have to be pushy,» he adds. «If you reject it, try another day again.»
3. Give the example
Tina tells her that setting a good example for a child at an early age is key.
«If you eat healthy, your child is more likely to imitate what you do,» she explains.
One important thing is not to share negative ideas about certain foods with children. Anna adds that it is important that parents do not give negative opinions about foods they do not like in front of their children, as that can influence their attitude towards food.
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Offering rewards and congratulations on healthy eating can reinforce good habits, he says.
However, emphasizes, the rewards should not be food but activities like going to the park, coloring a book or put a sticker on a cardboard that follows the progress of the child.
Tina recommends that healthy eating rewards be activities and not unhealthy foods like chocolate or ice cream. » We always say that you have to avoid bribery, «emphasizes the expert though.
«Do not say if you eat this I will give you a chocolate or an ice cream, because that makes them feel that the food we want to eat is worth less than the prize,» he explains.
5. Body image
Especially for older children, food and weight can be a delicate subject and the concern for how they look can help create low self-esteem.
A recent study found that obesity and mental health are intimately linked, and that obese children are more likely to suffer emotional problems such as anxiety and depression.
It is not necessary to associate the diet with the body image. You are encouraged to address food conversations in a way that does not associate the healthy eating habit with the physical appearance of the child.
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«Encourage them to eat healthy because it makes them feel good, rather than because it makes them look in a certain way,» he explains.
Anna agrees that language is key when talking about weight.
«It’s important for the whole family to make changes so the child doesn’t feel marked,» he says.
«Saying things like ‘ convert in a healthier family ‘ makes the child not realize that parents are concerned about their weight but still improves their diet.»