Obesity is a big public health problem that impacts millions of kids and grown-ups around the world. Obesity means having a body size and weight that is very high for someone your age, based on what’s normal at the 95 percentile. Carrying extra weight can make it more likely for you to get sick with things like diabetes, heart problems, and certain types of cancer. It can also damage your thoughts and feelings.
We should stop obesity from happening early on, because kids who are overweight may stay that way as they get older. Here are some tips on how to prevent obesity in kids aged 0-2 years:
Breastfeed your baby, if possible
Feeding from a mommy’s breast is good for both mother and baby. One nice thing about feeding a baby from the breast is it might decrease a child’s possibility of being too heavy. Breast milk provides the right food your baby needs to grow strong and healthy. This also aids your baby in managing hunger and signals for needing food. Keeping your baby healthy may also stop them from getting sick or allergies that can make their weight go up.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that for their first six months, babies only need mommy’s milk. Then, they need to start eating other solid foods but breastfeeding is still needed up till at least two years old.
Give your child the right amount of food.
As your kid gets bigger, they need more food and energy. Feeding your child too much or not enough can impact their weight and health. To feed your child appropriate portion sizes, you can use the following guidelines:
- For babies, listen to your baby’s hunger and full signs. Don’t make your baby eat all the bottle or breast food if they don’t want it. Don’t put hard foods like cereal in your baby bottle. It can cause them to eat too much and choke on it.
- For small kids, give your child many healthy foods from different types like fruits and veggies, grains too protein, and dairy. Let your child choose how much to eat from the foods you give them. Don’t make your child eat more or less than they want. Don’t give your kid big amounts of food. Instead, use smaller plates and bowls for them like grown ups do
- For babies and young kids, cut down on drinking juice, soda or other sweet drinks. They can give too many calories and sugar that aren’t good for them. Give your child water or milk instead.
Create a healthy relationship with food
How you give food to your kid can change their likes and dislikes in eating forever. To help your child develop a healthy relationship with food, you can:
- Give your kid different healthy foods when they’re little. Introduce your kid to various tastes, feels, and looks of food. This can help your child enjoy and value various foods, and stop being fussy about meals.
- Eat healthy foods together as a family. Kids learn by seeing and copying their parents or carers. If you eat healthy foods, your kid will probably do the same. Eating with your family can also give you a chance to connect and talk with your kid.
- Don’t give food as a reward or punishment. This can teach your kid to connect food with feelings, like joy or shame. This could cause emotional eating or overeating later in life. Rather, use rewards that aren’t food like stickers, toys, or compliments to motivate good actions. Likewise, don’t take away food as a way to punish your child because it can make them feel left out and angry.
- Help your child eat slowly and pay attention. Eating quickly can make your kid eat too much and still feel hungry. Teaching your kid to eat with care can help them listen when they’re hungry or full and enjoy how food tastes and feels. You can help your kid eat slowly and carefully by switching off the TV and other disturbances during meals, chewing food properly, and having nice talks.
Promote physical activity and limit screen time
Exercise is very important for your child’s growth, development, and health. It can help your child use up energy, make muscles stronger, build bones better, and raise mood levels. Physical exercise can stop weight gain by making sure the calories from food match how much energy you use.
The WHO says that kids under five should move for at least three hours a day, spread over the whole day. This involves easy, medium, and strong actions like crawling, walking, running fast to jump dancing. It also includes playing games with workouts in them without air.
To promote physical activity in your child, you can:
- Give your kid a safe and fun place to play and move around. Give your kid toys and things that make them move more, like balls, bikes, and swings. Don’t keep your kid in strollers, car seats, or high chairs for very long.
- Play sports with your kid. You can play games, or sports or help with chores for your child. You can also bring your kid to parks, playgrounds, or other areas where they can run and have fun. Doing fun activities with your child can also help make you closer and bring joy to physical exercise.
- Control your child’s screen time. Looking at TV shows and movies, playing computer games, or using phones are all ways to use screens. Using screens too much might reduce your child’s exercise and put them in line with ads for bad foods. It can also affect how well and much your child sleeps, which may change their weight and health too. The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) suggests that kids age 2 to 5 should only spend one hour a day watching screens and children under two years old shouldn’t watch anything on screen.