6 Tips to Tackle Obesity & Diabetes Among Indian Children
The rising incidence of obesity and diabetes among children has become a serious health concern in India. A research by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences suggests that childhood obesity is strongly associated with insulin resistance, a forerunner of Type 2 diabetes.
While it is easy to blame the changing times for this phenomenon, we can’t ignore the fact that children learn from their parents! They tend to eat what their parents eat. So apart from family dietary habits, meal-making practices are also responsible for negatively influencing a child’s health.
As a parent, we have the power to fight these conditions and bring children’s lives back on track to healthy glory. Our goal should be to help kids get the nutrients they need through wholesome ingredients and make simple, delicious food that makes ‘healthy’ taste great!
Featured below are 6 tips you can follow to ensure your kids stay healthy:
1. Prepare healthy family meals
Avoid eating out too often as both fast food and fine dining restaurants serve food that are high on calories, trans-fat, sugars and sodium. Such foods have low nutritional content and when eaten on a regular basis can contribute to unhealthy weight gain and invite chronic health conditions.
Also, when preparing meals for your family, make sure to source the right ingredients. Avoid buying packaged foods as they are high in refined carbohydrates, additives, and preservatives. Incorporate vegetables, fresh fruits, and whole grains in your daily diet. This will not just reduce the onslaught of obesity among children but will also ensure they eat nutritious and balanced meals at right intervals.
2. Change cooking methods
Try to prepare your meals in a healthy way. Reduce the quantity of oil used in preparing food as it has been linked to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease (World Heart Federation) Also, though fats such as cheese and butter make kids’ meals yummy, they can add to the fat content of their bodies. At times, even though kids consume high-fat foods, you won’t find noticeable difference in their weight; this can be attributed to the high metabolism rates. However, such food can make them feel lethargic over time.
Consider other healthy cooking options like baking, steaming, roasting, or shallow-frying. While preparing meals, cover food with a lid. It helps contain steam and moisture, enabling food to cook quickly and retain vital nutrients. Also, avoid using ghee while making sweets (ghee is high in trans-fat or hydrogenated fat) – instead use clarified butter or coconut oil in moderation.
3. Inculcate healthy eating habits
Don’t buy and store junk food like chips, French fries, packaged cookies, colas and sodas in your house. If we don’t have it at home, our kids won’t eat it. Junk food also has various substitutes – try making home-made oats or granola bites. Home baked cookies can be really healthy and yummy.
It’s important to tell kids the difference between “occasional food” (fried foods, pastries, desserts, chocolates, biscuits etc. which are more processed and contain unhealthy fats) and “daily food” (nutrient-rich food like fruits, vegetables, rotis, lentils and pulses, legumes, nuts & seeds, fish, low fat dairy products) that support good health.
4. Involve kids in meal preparation
Having kids involved in meal preparation is an enriching activity. They will experience greater self-efficacy and develop healthy eating habits. Involve kids in their lunch menus and let them help you pack their snack boxes. Prepare snacks and meals from vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products, example, a beetroot hummus with carrot and cucumber sticks over biscuits or chips.
Give up on packaged fruit juices (they contain high fructose corn syrup) and soda. Instead, be playful with different fruit colours and help kids use their imagination and creativity to make fun fruit pictures.
5. Encourage physical activity
Encourage your child to go outdoors and do something – anything! Take up a sport or any activity like dance, skating, karate, or football. For the little ones, run in the garden, play monkey ropes, slide and swing or just splash some water in the kid pool – they will all contribute toward the physical and mental development of kids keeping lifestyles diseases at bay.
Limit the time spent on TV watching and computer use. Pediatrics recommends no more than 2 hours of total screen time (American Academy of Pediatrics). As parents, we get worried our kids will be ‘bored’. It’s OKAY to be bored. It encourages thinking, observing, and even ideation! Our best ideas have come from being bored! Because they resulted in playing hopscotch, dancing, playing with hoola hoop.
6. Use the right cookware
Most common lifestyle diseases like diabetes and obesity have one thing in common – a healthy balanced diet. Not many people know that cookware or pots and pan actually play an important role in maintaining this balanced diet.
During cooking, cookware materials, especially those made of aluminum, iron, copper or even low-grade stainless steel leach metals into our daily food. This could be harming not just the kids’ health but of the entire family as well.
Switching to safe and healthy cookware – a surgical stainless steel cookware that does not react with your food can be looked upon as a long-term investment in the health of your family. Their unique cooking methods allow you to cook food without adding any oil or water, thereby maximizing nutritional value and flavor of the food.
Leading a healthy lifestyle devoid of obesity and chronic conditions is a matter of personal responsibility. However, kids are not old enough to understand the consequences of unhealthy eating and the risks associated with it. We need to be more accountable and take steps to set kids for a lifetime of healthy living!
Pradeep A Praveen, Nikhil Tandon. (2016). Childhood Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes in India. Available at http://www.searo.who.int/publications/journals/seajph/issues/seajphv5n1p17.pdf?ua=1
American Academy of Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics Announces New Recommendations for Children’s Media Use. https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/american-academy-of-pediatrics-announces-new-recommendations-for-childrens-media-use.aspx
World Heart Federation. Diet, overweight and obesity. Available at https://www.world-heart-federation.org/resources/diet-overweight-obesity/