Childhood obesity is increasing in Pakistan, particularly in the upper and middle income group. In order to see if your child is overweight or not, please see the weight for age section in the Ages & Stages category. Obesity occurs when there is more energy rich food intake and not enough physical activity. Not realizing the dangers of obesity, parents often encourage the children to eat as much as possible and whatever is preferred by the child. The diet choices are not particularly healthy, with a lot of sweets and juices. Decline in physical activity of children is attributed to excessive TV and screen (computer) time, decrease in outdoor play activities due to safety concerns, and the lack of awareness about the dangers of obesity in parents.
Obese children are significantly more likely to develop a host of problems like early diabetes, high blood pressure, heart ailments etc. Therefore, we owe it to our children to protect them from obesity.
Obesity is diagnosed with the help of growth charts. Please see the relevant section on growth charts to determine if your child is obese or not.
In order to tackle childhood obesity, one useful approach is "5210". This is a mnemonic that’s been used to help families remember some key touch points about obesity prevention and treatment.
“Five” would be eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day. This can be challenging for some families who really haven’t had a vegetable appear on their plate, but
there’s well-documented evidence that fruits and vegetables are effective in treating obesity. It’s recommended as a way of increasing fiber in the diet for lowering
lipids. Fruits and vegetables displace higher energy-dense snacks, so this is something families should really be focusing on.
“Two” means two hours or less of screen time a day. If you have an under 2-year-old child, no screen time and that includes computers and TV. Two hours or less for the older child except for school work. This exposure to television is both creating sedentary time, but exposing children to food commercials, and so there’s a link between sedentary time and weight, but also and maybe even more importantly, commercial exposure and weight. So parents should limit this time for their children and have a schedule of time, and not let this just be an automatic fallback. Certainly they should not be putting a TV in the child’s room.
“One” is one hour of physical activity a day. Many parents would think that children
automatically get physical activity in schools, but that may not be true. So parents really need to ensure that there’s at least one hour a day that that child gets a chance to be outside or engaged in a physical activity.
And then “zero” is no juice. And this opens the gateway into the high-caloric beverages and you can also include high energy-dense snacks in foods that you really want to avoid. Water drinking, low fat milk are great beverages for kids, allowing them to eat their fruit to get the fruit servings instead of drink juice.
These are some basic steps families can take to begin the road to transitioning to a healthier lifestyle.