Over the last few decades, obesity has reached endemic proportions in Western societies, including Quebec. In fact, the latest surveys reveal that 26% of Quebec children aged 2 to 5 are overweight or obese. It is important to act to counter this situation, as these children are more likely to become obese adults.
Causes and consequences of overweight and obesity
Overweight (or overweight) and obesity are defined as an abnormal or excessive accumulation of body fat that harms health. Obesity is an excess of fat more important than being overweight.
Some of the factors contributing to overweight and obesity include:
- A poor diet to which the food industry contributes (fast food, prepared meals, higher portions, advertising, etc.).
- Lack of physical activity and the number of hours spent watching television or computer.
- Certain diseases (eg genetic disorder, endocrine disease or neurological damage).
- The lack of sleep.
Overweight and obesity have many serious consequences for children. On the physical health side, overweight or obese children are more likely, as adults, to suffer from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, such as osteoarthritis, and certain types of cancer. endometrium, breast, and colon).
Overweight and obesity can also affect a child’s mental health. Psychological repercussions are usually more immediate than physical problems. The mockery of comrades can permanently mark a child and cause long-term sequels.
Should we put a child on a diet?
It is strongly discouraged to put a child on a diet, even if he is overweight or obese. Remember that a child is growing and that too severe dietary restrictions could compromise their development and health.
To deprive a child of food can also have consequences on the relationship he develops with his parents and with food, on his self-esteem, on the development of his autonomy, etc. A child who is deprived develops an exaggerated preoccupation with food. He may begin to hide to eat, or tend to eat a lot as soon as he gets the chance.
However, we must act to control the situation as quickly as possible. It is important to stabilize the child’s weight by adopting a lifestyle and healthy eating behaviors that will allow him to have growth and development appropriate to his age.
Tips for stabilizing your child’s weight
If a screen is lit during meals, our attention is focused on it and eating becomes an automatism. We then tend to eat more, because we are no longer listening to the signals of hunger and satiety that our body sends us.
- Promote a positive relationship with food by avoiding the notion of “forbidden” foods and by encouraging the consumption of various foods.
- Revise the menu of the whole family by focusing on nutritious foods, fruits or vegetables at all meals and snacks, whole grains, good sources of protein (eg lean meat, fish, legumes ), etc.
- Limit fatty or sugary foods without prohibiting them.
- Limit juice or sugary drinks to a small glass (125 ml) a day.
- Create a schedule of meals and snacks. Your child will be reassured to know that he has frequent opportunities to eat and will learn that he does not need to “make reservations”.
- Set rules around meals: eat at the table and turn off screens when eating (eg, TV, tablet, smartphone).
- For your child to enjoy mealtimes, involve them in planning and preparing meals.
- Share your meals with your family in a relaxed atmosphere.
- Participate in active games with him to encourage him to move more, and in the fun.
- Reduce the number of hours spent watching television. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a child of 2 to 5 years should not spend more than 2 hours a day in front of a screen. In Quebec, public health sets this limit at 1 hour per day.
It is better to make these changes gradually rather than abruptly and quickly. Thus, these new habits will be more likely to become permanent.
How to help your child develop good eating habits
Act as a positive role model, both in terms of diet and physical activity. Remember, your child imitates you!
Here are some attitudes to adopt or avoid to help your child develop good eating habits and a good relationship with food:
- Avoid using food to reward or comfort your child.
- Help your child recognize when he is hungry and when he is no longer hungry by asking him how he feels. Stop eating when you’re hungry instead of always finishing your plate. This will help you avoid overeating. Remember that your child is the only one to know if he is still hungry or not and therefore how much food he should eat.
- Encourage your child to take his time to eat and set an example. He will recognize better the signals of hunger and satiety that sends him his body.
- Avoid prohibiting certain foods, especially if people around him eat them. It would then develop a greater appeal for these forbidden foods.
- Do not force him to finish his plate if he says he is no longer hungry. Serve your child adequate servings for his age, first asking if he has a small or big hunger, or how much he wants on his plate.
- Do not prepare special meals for your child to eat healthier, as it isolates him/herself from feeling that he/she has a problem. The whole family must, most of the time, adopt good eating habits.