Tackling Childhood Obesity Part 3 - Diet
The final part of the puzzle in getting your children healthier is obviously diet. This has the potential to be the trickiest area to tackle because eating is probably the one area where kids can exercise some form of control over you by simply refusing to eat. Our eldest often had three different dinners put in front of him when he refused to eat what we were having because we didn’t know better and we let him control us. Now the kids have what is put in front of them and either eat it or don’t. If they don’t, they don’t get any pudding. There have been instances of the kids going to bed feeling hungry but no child ever died from feeling hungry once in a while, and it’s important to let them know who's boss.
There are several simple things you can do to help your children eat and drink more healthily. Perhaps the most simple of these is to control portion size by dishing the food up in the kitchen rather than bringing it through in serving dishes. There is little firm guidance on what portion size children should have but it is important to bear in mind that not all children can easily tell when they are full up and some will continue eating even though they’ve had enough to eat. Limiting the food available at the table will make this sort of over eating easier to deal with. Formalising snack time is another way to help limit the amount of food that your kids consume. Kids are great at grazing; eating a little almost continuously, so to combat that with have a snack time where they can have a snack like a biscuit or crisps after school and other than that they have free reign on fruit or carrot sticks that we keep in the fridge. Talking of fruit, we don’t let our kids drink fruit juice for a number of reasons. Firstly it’s terrible for their teeth, secondly it can often contain added sugar which isn’t good for kids and finally it’s often got as many calories as a piece of fruit but is nowhere near as filling.
We also like to get our children involved in making the meals we eat. Often this can be terribly messy and lead to some interesting meals but as well as teaching them an important life skill, it also makes an important connection between the food we grow and what we eat that means we find the kids are much more likely to eat an unusual meal if they’ve had a hand in preparing it. For example, over Christmas our eldest helped me make a prawn and chilli linguine that he chose from a Jamie Oliver cookbook. It was a little spicy for our youngest but the rest ate it with gusto. Like everything though, this needs a parental commitment to do properly but if you can’t find the time, you should definitely try and make it, even if it is only at the weekends. It can be great, if messy fun.
Guest blogger Daddacool - By day a mild mannered accountant. By night...asleep until the kids wake him up. "Britain's premier parent blogger" - Sunday Times.