Experts debunk common misconceptions about childhood obesity, kids’ eating habits and the sensitive issues surrounding weight.
Myth #1: Childhood obesity is genetic, so there’s nothing you can do about it.
“Weight and height may be genetic but eating habits are learned,” says VANESSA MCNAMARA, a dietitian with The Travelling Dietitian. “Constant exposure to a wide variety of nutritious foods is the first step to developing a healthy eater.”
DR ARTI JAISWAL, a US-trained paediatric doctor at IMC Children’s, agrees wholeheartedly: “We cannot change our genes, and everyone has different body types, but we can teach healthy eating and active lifestyles to our children and reinforce that everyone is different.”
Myth #2: Children who are obese or overweight should be put on a diet.
Vanessa, who also consults from IMC Children’s, says this definitely isn’t the case. “I don’t believe children should ever be put on a diet unless they have a specific clinical condition that warrants it. We can help a child manage their weight by providing plenty of fruit and vegetables, lean sources of protein and nutritious whole grains, by keeping high fat and high sugar foods as ‘sometimes foods’ and by encouraging children to listen to their hunger and fullness cues.”
Myth #3: It’s just baby fat.
Children will outgrow the weight. “Sometimes this is true, so we need to look at the growth trend of each child to understand the situation,” says Dr Arti.
Like adults, children come in lots of shapes and sizes. Therefore, the child’s growth curve – looking at changes in both weight and height as the child grows – must be followed rather than focusing on a number.
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This article first appeared in the Kids Guide 2019/20 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue!