Obesity is becoming one of the biggest problems of the 21st century. Professor Dan Turner, Head of the Juliet Keidan Institute of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition at Shaare Zedek and Ms. Ronit Dadush, dietician at Shaare Zedek describe the current situation and offer advice on helping children to lose those extra kilos/pounds.
Things you should do:
- Increase physical activity. Choose an activity based on your child’s preferences: cycling, swimming, running, walking, sports, etc. Try to include three sessions of strenuous physical activity a week.
- Limit your children’s screen time. This includes television and computer, to 1-2 hours/day.
- Change your shopping habits: Do not buy sweet drinks, high-fat dairy products, sweets and snacks. If the food is not in the house it is not eaten. If you say children cannot eat foods that are in the house, this can lead to secretive eating and unnecessary conflicts.
- Lower the amount of carbohydrates in one’s diet to the recommended lower threshold of 45-50% of the total daily calories. The rest of the calories will come from fats and proteins. The carbohydrates should be fiber-rich foods with low glycemic index, such as most vegetables, certain fruits, quinoa and oats, and limit the starches (bread, pasta, sugar, rice, and potatoes).
- Try to avoid buying prepared and industrialized foods and limit eating out. Fast food is high in calories and less healthy.
- Have a family meal once a day. This will enable parents to be a role model for healthy eating and will even improve the overall family experience.
- Have a set place in the home for eating and regular meal times. Avoid eating in front of the TV, computer and in bedrooms. It is not recommended to skip meals or limit the amount of food children eat, but try to eat healthy – between meals eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Setting an example is the key to success! If you eat in front of the TV, you cannot forbid it for your children.
- Encourage your children to drink water or soda instead of sweetened beverages. Sweetened drinks contain an alarming amount of sugar and artificial sweeteners that have been found to be harmful to health.
- Use small plates during mealtime and give small portions. Encourage everyone to drink a glass of water before eating and encourage everyone to eat slowly.
Things you should not do:
- Do not talk about weight too much. It is important to remember that, parallel to the increase in the prevalence of obesity in adolescents, there is also an increase in the incidence of the opposite phenomenon – eating disorders including bulimia and anorexia. Bulimia patients often tend to have excess weight and feel guilty about eating and cause compulsive vomiting. Some anorexia patients started overweight and did not know when to stop the diet that they were encouraged to start.
- Do not use the word “diet”. Try to focus on a “change in habits for healthy eating” for all members of the household.
- Have lots of pleasant conversations with positive explanations. It is best to stay away from comments about quantities of food or weight (avoid statements such as: “Do not you see that you’re fat?”). It is also not recommended to compare children.
- Caution – Every word parents tell their child can hurt the delicate soul of the child or teenager. A sense of failure can lead to the opposite result. In order to succeed, we must increase our positive reinforcement (but not in prizes). Make sure the child feels your support. Let them feel that if they lose weight, they will feel better about themselves because they will be healthier, and we will do it together because we believe in them and know that they can do it .
Please read this article (in Hebrew) for more details.