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This subject assumes particular significance because obesity in children is on the rise. The shift from a starving world to an obese one is happening at a tremendous speed. Not a day passes without hearing about how our children are becoming overweight. This trend is notably found in the metros where children pass most of their time indoors — either in school, tuitions or watching television and playing indoor games. To add to this, they have a wide variety of junk foods to choose from. Statistics show that roughly 20% of school-going children in India are obese. In a study conducted by All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, among children of age groups of 14 to 18, 17% are found to be obese or overweight. In another study, conducted to compare the childhood obesity among different cities, it was observed that obesity is more common among the Delhi children as compared to kids of other cities such as Mumbai, Dehradun, and Agra. After evaluation, it was found that 32.6 % obese children studied in private schools compared to 9.2 % children in government schools. Mumbai trails behind Delhi with 30.4 % obese children in private schools and 7.9% obese children in government school. It is also noticed that there has been an increase in obesity from 11.6% to 17% in private schools in the past few years.

Now we have a problem in our society so massive that it can no longer be considered uncommon. It has been reported that the current generation of obese children may have shorter life expectancies than their parents because of the rapid rise in childhood obesity. Obese children are more prone to heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, kidney failure and cancer.

A few suggestions:

  • Encourage activities like riding bicycles in the neighbourhood and playing games.
  • Try to include activities like dancing, karate and yoga to bring about positive activity in their lives. Yoga takes care of both body and mind. In addition to a strong body, it makes a child mentally strong as well.
  • Establish family hours in your daily routine and utilise that time by playing games which involve physical activity, together. It will bring you closer to your children and will also boost your personal activity level. Set goals for everyone like going for walks together. Along with an increase in activity levels, it is important to bring about small changes in diet too. These changes include:
  • Be a role model: Parents who don’t eat healthy cannot expect their children to eat healthy. Throw out all junk, farsan, chips, chocolate, soft drinks, white bread from the house and keep fresh fruits handy. Children imitate their parents. To instil healthy eating habits, modify yourself first, only then your kids will abide.
  • Check portion size: Give small servings to your child to bring discipline while eating. Teach them to avoid overeating.
  • Use healthy cooking oil: Cook foods in healthy oils like olive and canola oil. Check the quantity of oil, while cooking. Be creative and make dishes, which require minimum oils and yet are appealing and tasty. Avoid deep frying foods. Instead, adopt roasting and stir-frying methods.
  • Make healthy choices: Keep healthy foods such as whole wheat bread sandwiches, chapatti roles and fruits handy, in place of colas and junk food. They will begin to enjoy healthy meals quickly. Use low-fat substitutes like low-fat cheese, salad dressing and skimmed milk.
  • Replace soft drinks: Aerated drinks even canned and sweetened fruit juices are high in calories and low in nutritional value. Replace them with coconut water, low fat milk, fresh fruit juice or vegetable juices.

The changes recommended are not only healthy for children but for the entire family. It is really important for parents to cultivate healthy eating habits and increase the physical activity in children to help them lead a disease-free life. Parents have a crucial role in creating an obese-free India by encouraging a healthy lifestyle and healthy food habits in children from a young age.

(As published in Hindustan Times dated March 09, 2020)

March 9, 2020

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