Niamh Landy, dietitian at Great Ormond Street Hospital, gives ‘Top Tips’ to help families combat childhood obesity
Niamh Landy, a dietitian at Great Ormond Street Hospital, knows that parent power works. ‘We know that educating parents on healthy eating could be the key to combating childhood obesity.’ She states ‘Making sure children have a healthy diet is important because it can reduce rates of obesity, hypertension and diabetes as well as decrease the risk of coronary artery disease’. To help parents look after their children’s health, Niamh has put together a series of top tips for families to adopt today.
When eating with the family, Niamh suggests that families should avoid rushing meal-times, turn off the television and sit at a table for a meal. ‘When you slow down it allows the brain to ‘realise’ that the stomach is full so that you know you’ve had enough and don’t overeat.’ She explains ‘Giving your child small portions is also important. Remember to check if your child is actually full before offering them more food.’
When out and about it is always a good idea to bring snacks from home. This will avoid the need to buy high calorie convenience food such as chocolate and crisps or fizzy drinks when out on a trip or shopping. ‘Snacks such as fruit, vegetables, crackers, nuts, plain biscuits and unsalted popcorn are good choices’ Niamh suggests. Choosing healthier options to eat and drink every day is also important. Rather than offering a fizzy drink give diluted fruit juice, weak squash, milk or water. Always make sure your child has a drink available to them to make sure they do not get dehydrated. Ensuring they have a drink before they leave for school and in their school bag is also a good idea. If going for a takeaway, Niamh suggests choosing a lighter option such as fish coated in breadcrumbs, thin base pizzas with vegetable or lean meat toppings and grilled burgers made from lean meat with salad. ‘Of course, eating five fruit or vegetable portions a day is also essential to being healthy. These can be fresh, tinned, frozen or dried. Remember though that juices and smoothies only count as one of your 5-a-day.’
Parents should encourage their children to exercise. ‘Making time for the family to get involved in physical activities is important’ Niamh says. ‘Being a good role model is essential to encouraging good habits in your child.’ Niamh suggests activities such as cycling, walking, playing tag, jumping rope, as well as swimming and dancing as good activities to encourage your child to participate in. ‘Joining in with other families in soccer or softball games is also a fun way of encouraging children to participate.’ Reducing the time children spend in front of a screen, such as a computer, television or video game consoles, is also a good idea.