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With both parents working and the abundance of fast food, it is getting even harder to keep our children fit and healthy. The National Health Survey last year showed that 10.8 per cent of people here were obese, an increase of 6.9 per cent in 2004.

With the obesity rates creeping up, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) has started free nutrition counselling programme where they use interactive games to help parents and their children understand and learn how much fat, salt and sugar goes into their favourite food such as hamburgers, fries and coca-cola.

Also conducted by the board’s School Health Service, the programmes also help children set personal weight-control targets and plan diet charts over a three half-hour sessions spread within six months. Dr K Vijaya, director of the Youth Health Division says most parents who opt not to take their children to the counselling sessions said they have no time. Others claim they monitor their children’s diet at home.

Research shows that not all children will lose their ‘baby fats’ and it has been proven that obese children will grow up to be obese adults. The childhood obesity rate was at 9.7 per cent, up from 9.3 per cent in 2005. In Singapore, children who weigh at least 20 per cent more than average height are considered obese, although when compared with their American counterparts, many in this category do not even look fat.

While adults manage to lose their weight through physical activities and weight loss, I do not recommend drastic weight loss in children or for parents to put them on a restrictive diet.  It could deprive a child of his essential nutrients and even put them at risk on eating disorder.

Children can put as much as 1kg a month as they grow and the nutrition clinic helps obese children maintain a healthy weight by merely slowing down or stopping weight gain.

Ways to do so:

  • Children need more carbohydrate as they use up more energy. However, do not forget to have a portion of protein and fibre so that the meal is balance
  • Exercise, indoors or outdoors. Instead of calling it exercise, I would prefer the term ‘play time’. Use the time to engage in an activity, such as catching or throwing a ball so that your children can play and still burn calories.
  • Be careful when you feed your children sweets as it contains unhealthy saturated fat and trans fats that are common in most cake, pastries and processed foods.
  • Try not to give your child more than four egg yolks per week and limit the number of organ meat and shellfish to no more than twice a week.
  • Never reward kids with food. Even if it is healthy, be cautious as this practice teaches them that it is alright to eat even when they are not hungry. Instead, reward them with extra play time.
  • Organise play dates with your neighbours’ kids. Researchers have found out that neighbourhood playmate is 2-3 times more active themselves as compared to those without a friend to play with.
  • Make healthier snacks for your kids. Instead of just a plain apple, why not cut them into slices and lightly sprinkle cinnamon powder on them? Not only will their tastebud tingle, but they will also learn other food group apart from chips and candies.

Help your children maintain a healthy lifestyle.

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