Overweight and obesity is a worldwide problem that increasingly affects children. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), 15% of Brazilian children aged between five and nine years are currently obese.
Changes in the pattern of food and physical activity, together with biological, behavioral and environmental factors favor this increase.
For children and adolescents, examples of these factors are the conditions and situations of the school, family and social environments. Also noteworthy are the characteristics present in pregnancy and early life, such as maternal nutritional status prior to pregnancy, smoking during pregnancy and feeding in childhood.
The nutrition manager at HCor (Hospital do Coração), Rosana Perim, warns: “this is not just an aesthetic issue. Obese children are more likely to be obese adults and, consequently, to have health complications associated with being overweight, such as heart attack, stroke, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Only cardiovascular complications in adults alone represent the main cause of death in the country, with more than 29% of the total deaths ”, explains the nutritionist.
Therefore, taking care of food is something that should always be done. When a child is brought up following a healthy lifestyle, he is more likely to follow that example for the rest of his life. But how can we set a good example, in the face of so many calls for industrialized and ultra-processed foods?
Rosana explains that it is necessary to create tricks to make healthy eating more attractive. “The tip is to bet on the colors of the food, try new preparations and transform meals into pleasant moments with the family. Eating in moderation and without prohibitions is perfectly possible, as long as there is expert guidance, ”says Perim.
From an early age, children should be encouraged to eat five to six meals a day such as breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner and a small snack before bed, drinking plenty of water and avoiding food consumption such as snacks, sweets, sandwiches, soft drinks and industrialized juices.
“Among the actions that parents can take to encourage healthy food intake is to try to make the preparations appetizing for consumption, including from fresh fruits, fruit salad, gelatin, whole grain cakes, carrot cake, whole grain cookies, natural juices and coconut water ”, suggests Rosana Perim.
Tips to encourage children’s healthy habitss
Colorful food: Bet in different colors to make the dish more attractive. The presentation of food is one of the ways to increase the child’s appetite.
Turn it into play: Involve the child in the choice and preparation of food, and make it attractive to him. In addition to knowing more about food and its functions in the body. Example: Take the child to the grocery store, market and fair to help him in the purchase of fruits and vegetables, allowing him to express his preferences.
Family meal: It is important for parents to have meals with their children. The child observes everything that the parents are doing and tries to copy. There is no point in making the child eat something that you do not consume yourself.
Importance of food: As far as possible, explain to the child the role of food, as well as the importance of each food group.
Insist on what’s new: Whenever possible, introduce new foods to your little ones’ meals. The child does not always agree to eat a preparation that is offered to him for the first time, but it is important to insist and explain the importance of the nutrients present for health.
Autonomy: Let the child control how much to eat. Do not force! Respect the child’s feeling of satiety. But beware! Keep an eye on the amounts consumed, as excess is the big villain of obesity.
Respect: Respect the child’s decision if he does not want to eat at that moment, later he will look for you to feed. At that time, offer healthy preparations whenever possible.
By Antonio Montano