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Lead by example

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Is India heading towards a chronic obesity outbreak among children? Nutritionist Karishma Chawla points out that young ones often follow their parents’ habits

There is a fine line between being overweight and obese. The threat of obesity is increasing in children in India and across the world.  According to a World Health Organisation report last year, the number of overweight children under the age of five in 2013 was estimated to be over 42 million, and the number is growing. Of these, around 31 million are from developing nations.

Eating disorders among teenagers are on the rise. We hear of many teenagers adopting incorrect food habits in the race to look good and be ‘thin’ without going about it the healthy way. These can affect the children much later in life.

 Children resort to comfort foods for emotional eating. Foods rich in sugar and fat gives them an instant rush. Gradually, unhealthy eating becomes a habit.

Between the ages of 10 to 17, the child is surrounded by peer group, media, and different ideas of body image. These factors play an important role in determining their food choices. A wrong diet can give rise to eating disorders. Anorexia is when the person severely restricts the amount of food s/he eats and opts for very small quantities of only certain foods. Bulimia is where the person faces frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food and has no control over it. One can detect an unhealthy diet by noticing the following diet patterns—irregular meal patterns;  not having breakfast;  dependency on junk foods;  undernutrition or overeating.

So the question that now arises is what is the solution to controlling this disorder among children? Here are some solutions. Energy requirements in terms of calories for adolescents are higher than adults keeping in mind the growth and development the body goes through. It is important to eat adequate protein for growth needs, bone development, synthesis of hormones and enzymes. Here are the dietary guidelines for children:

  •   Consumption of whole balanced meals should be encouraged rather than dependency on junk foods.
  •   Include calcium-rich foods like milk, curd, paneer cheese, sesame seeds and green leafy vegetables.
  •   Include iron-rich foods. Also include protein-rich foods like eggs, meat, dairy products, nuts, seeds and pulses.
  •   Include fruits in your diet. One can include it in porridges or milkshakes too.
  •   Discourage overeating of sweets, chocolates, and fried foods, ready-to-eat snacks, processed foods, biscuits and soft drinks.

Educate your child about healthy eating habits. Lead by example; children often follow the habits of their parents.

Karishma Chawla is a certified nutritionist

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