Childhood obesity has become a worldwide problem. The percentage of children affected by obesity has increased exponentially over the last few decades and parents have an important role to play in preventing it, by controlling their children's diet and physical activity1.
Excessive consumption of calories from food and drinks that are high in sugar and saturated, trans fats (the so-called "bad fats") can lead to weight gain over time. Scientific studies have shown that 30-40% of the daily energy intake for children comes from energy-dense foods and drinks with little nutritional value, such as salty snacks, sugary drinks (soft drinks or concentrated fruit juices) and processed foods like desserts, fast food, commercial sauces, etc.)2. Unfortunately, many children prefer these to healthy foods. Children as well as adults often prefer the taste and texture of these types of foods. As the consumption of these fast foods increases, adopting healthy eating habits is becoming even more difficult.
As a parent, the first challenge to prevent obesity in toddlers is to minimise these types of fast food in your child's diet and to replace them with fresh fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, nuts, etc. By giving your child water to drink instead of soft drinks and juices, and by reducing the use of salt, sugar and fat in food recipes to the proper amounts, you’ll make your child’s meals more delicious3.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [webpage] *. Atlanta. US. Department of Health & Human Services; 2018 [last accessed on 29 August 2018]. Childhood Obesity Facts. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/facts.htm
- Liem DG, Mennella JA. "Sweet and Sour Preferences During Childhood: The Role of Early Experiences." Psycho-biological developmental. 2002; 41 (4): 388-395.
- Story M, Kaphingst KM, Robinson-O'Brien R, et al. "Creating healthy food and eating environments: policy and environmental approaches." Annu Rev Public Health. 2008; 29: 253-272.