Obesity is not an uncommon phenomenon in our fast-growing world, not excluding Singapore that enjoys steady exponential economic growth. Translation, the variety and range of food readily available would increase.
Sugar, the main ingredient in many energy-dense food would then find its smooth way into our diet through sweetened drinks and snacks, leaving with us a series of repercussions ranging from immediate to long-term ones.
Excessive sugar intake can cause hyperactivity, restlessness, decreased attention span and ability to focus and even mood swings. Indulging in foods high in sugar can cause significant weight gain.
Excessive weight gain and/or obesity is now to be a main cause of lethargy and it’s not uncommon to see an obese person reaching for energy-dense food in order to have a spike in energy to keep up. Additionally, this can cause low-esteem to build up.
With obesity and a diet high in sugar, your child is not only highly susceptible to tooth decay and other oral health problems, he is also exposed to both childhood and adult type 2 diabetes. What comes along with it will be monetary spending that may develop into financial woes.
Parents play a huge part too — usually children with obese or overweight parents tend to follow suit with the latter’s lifestyle and what they eat, hence they end up being less active and choosing foods that are low in nutrients.
To help your child adopt a healthier lifestyle and steer clear of obesity, here are five things you can do:
Lead by example
Keep the snack intake of your kids and yourself low as sugar is everywhere, even in cereal bars and pre-packaged oatmeal packs that claim to be ‘healthy’. Your actions to change definitely speak louder than words.
Introduce healthier food
Besides lowering the consumption of snacks, it is also crucial to simultaneously expose and train your kids to develop a healthier palate that’s less inclined towards sweet and sugary things. Learn to make healthy soups, meals and snacks with less sugar.
Opt for healthier options
Read labels and choose food products with reduced sugar content. Sugar can reduce a child’s immunity when the body’s micro-biome balance of good bacteria (help the body break down food, produce vitamins and protect it from illness) is reduced. Reducing the child’s sugar intake may help reduce symptoms of runny nose, excessive mucus, cough and sinus conditions as cold-like symptoms are one of the most common effects of sugar.
Increase health literacy
Educate your child on the types of food that are nutritionally depleted such as sweetened drinks, processed and junk foods that contain cheap calories. Inculcate from a young age the importance of healthy eating and promote a supportive environment.
Increase physical activity
With the increased accessibility to exercise facilities in Singapore, to meet the recommended 150-250 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity each week should be easy. Alternate exercise routines and make it fun; skate-scooting, kite-flying and walks at the Botanic Gardens are great ways to start. You can consider playing Frisbee and volleyball at the beach for a fun-filled weekend too!
Originally published in “Obesity and Your Child”, written by Juansa Arissa Cheng, in Singapore’s Child May 2016.