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Obesity: How to help your child eat healthily

Across the world, record numbers of children are obese - but one city appears to have bucked the trend.

Figures presented at an obesity conference suggest Leeds in UK has managed to reduce child obesity rates by 6.4% over recent years.

A key part of the city's strategy for tackling obesity was a focus on pre-school children and offering parents classes in how to encourage their children to be healthy.

But it's not always easy for parents and carers to know how to approach the subject of food. So what are the best things they can do?

giving children an input into what they eat from an early age, by offering a choice of two healthy options, can help guide them towards eating well and This can help minimize the risk of refusing to eat something completely and it helps them feel in control.

When we don't give children an option, they can feel quite shut down and a bit frustrated.

It's important they have some safe foods that you know they like but then you can also introduce something new on their plate in just a tiny amount.

Another step is to be a good role model, so If you're eating healthily yourself, your child is more likely to model what you're doing.

And also eating together at meal times also helps to encourage younger children to mimic their parents' eating habits.

It is important for parents not to voice negative opinions about foods they don't like around their children, as this can influence their attitudes towards new foods.

Offering rewards and praise for eating healthily can reinforce good habits, doctors say.

However, they stresses rewards should not be related to food but instead an activity like going to the park, doing some coloring or putting a sticker on a chart.

"We always say avoid bribing," they says.

"Don't say if you eat this you'll get a chocolate or some ice cream because that makes them feel the food we are asking them to eat is worth less than the reward."

Especially for older children, food and weight can be a sensitive topic, and concerns about how they look can contribute to issues with self-esteem.

A recent study found that obesity and mental health were closely linked, with obese children more likely to suffer from emotional problems like anxiety and low mood.

"Encourage them to be healthy because it makes them feel good, rather than because it makes them look a certain way," Doctors says.

They agree that language is key when addressing the issue of weight.

"It's important that the families are encouraged to make changes as a whole so the child doesn't feel singled out," Doctors says.

"Saying things like, 'Let's become healthier as a family', means the child may not even have any idea that the parent is concerned about their weight but still improves their diet."

 

Lara Khouli

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