Childhood obesity is on the rise, with one in six children considered to be too fat, according to the latest statistics by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention in the US. In fact, obesity rates are soaring, with unnecessary weight gain in twice the amount of kids than 30 years ago.
Some toddlers and young children carry cute “puppy fat” for quite some time, and that’s perfectly healthy. But the minute your child starts suffering from chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, battles to keep up with her peers during the day, has trouble breathing at night or complains of hip or knee pain, it’s time to take a look at her weight.
If you’re unsure whether or not your child is obese, make an appointment with your healthcare provider, who will plot her weight and height on a growth chart and compare it with other children of the same sex and age. It’s also important to review your little one’s diet and ensure you know about these common food myths.
These food myths could be making your child obese:
1. Myth: Muffins and crumpets are good breakfast options.
Fact: These are OK for a weekend treat, but unless you’re baking healthier versions, they’re not a good breakfast choice and could be making your child obese. This is because the store-bought varieties are often made with processed white flour, sugar, saturated fat and preservatives, which can lead to weight gain, and even chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes. Plus, they’re almost entirely stripped of fibre, which could cause constipation.
2. Myth: It’s OK for my child to eat regularly from the kiddies’ menu at restaurants.
Fact: Most restaurants offer foods that they think children will find appealing, and are not necessarily the healthiest option. Have you ever seen carrot sticks, healthy soups or salads on a kiddies’ menu? Normally, you’ll find deep- fried foods, such as fried chicken or chips, processed meat including sausages as well as white, sugary carbs such as white bread or pizza loaded with fatty cheese. Numerous studies have shown that these types of convenience foods are the biggest culprits when it comes to rising obesity rates. Limit the amount of times you order kiddies’ meals and be aware of what’s on the menu.
3. Myth: Fruit juice is a healthy option for my child.
Fact: Unless it’s freshly squeezed and diluted with water, fruit juice may not be that healthy as it can be loaded with sugar and stripped of the fibre that comes with eating the actual fruit. Your little one should only drink water, milk (once or twice a day) or rooibos tea, advises Meg Faure, occupational therapist and author of Feeding Sense. The aim is to encourage drinking water as much as possible, so keep a filled water bottle on offer at all times.
4. Myth: My child needs an animal protein at every meal.
Fact: Protein is essential for healthy growth and development, but Patrick Holford, nutritionist and author of Optimum Nutrition Before, During and After Pregnancy, believes you don’t have to give your child lots of cheese, meat and milk (over the age of one) at every meal. “Although animal produce is the primary type of protein in a typical Western diet, gram for gram it’s only a marginally better source than nuts and seeds, quinoa, or pulses such as lentils mixed with brown rice,” he says. Processed animal meats such as deli meats, yellow cheese and chicken nuggets are often loaded with unhealthy saturated fats, which further contribute to obesity. Consider feeding your little one more fish – particularly white fish such as hake, and oily fish rich in omega-3 – and experiment with vegetarian sources of protein, such as tofu.
5. Myth: Frozen yoghurt and milkshakes are healthy dessert options.
Fact: Although they’re marginally better than Coke floats and ice cream sundaes, frozen yoghurt and milkshakes can contain high amounts of sugar and could be making your child obese. For instance, a large cup of frozen yoghurt is about 400 calories, while a standard McDonald’s Vanilla Shake with syrup contains a whopping 74g sugar and is about 600 calories. Children aged two to eight shouldn’t have more than three to four teaspoons of sugar a day, which is only 15-20g in total, according to recent guidelines issued by the American Heart Association.
Tammy is a wife, mom and freelance writer with 15 years’ experience in the media industry. She specialises in general lifestyle topics related to health, wellness and parenting. Tammy has a passion for fitness and the great outdoors. If she’s not running around after her daughter, you’ll find her off the beaten track, running, hiking or riding her bike. Learn more about Tammy Jacks .