The past 12 months have been a challenging time for most, both physically and mentally, and as a parent, you may be concerned about the effects of COVID-19 on your child’s overall health. With restrictions on going out, leisure facilities being closed, and a general lack of physical activity, many people, children included, have noticed the pounds slowly start to pile on.
If you are worried about your child’s weight or their lack of exercise, you should aim to act sooner rather than later, as the longer you allow bad habits to continue, the harder it will be to overcome them. From setting a good example yourself to limiting their screen time, keep reading to discover seven ways that you can ensure your child maintains a healthy weight.
1. Lead by example
If your cupboards are piled high with unhealthy snacks such as biscuits, potato chips, cakes, and chocolate, how can you expect your child to eat healthily? Instead, make the decision to lead by example and show your child that healthy food is both delicious and nutritious. It can also be a great idea to involve your child in the food preparation process. If they are too young to help with the actual cooking of a meal, let them help you prepare their snacks.
2. Consider genetics
If you or your partner are overweight or there is a history of obesity in your family, you need to be even more vigilant when it comes to ensuring your child maintains a healthy weight. You can find out your child’s current BMI online to see whether or not they are in the healthy weight range for their age.
You can also find out how tall they are likely to be when they are older using this handy height calculator tool. This can help you gain a little perspective into their overall physical stature, as some kids are just genetically predisposed to be bigger than others.
3. Encourage physical activity
An obvious step but a crucial one nonetheless, you need to make sure that your child is getting some form of physical activity every single day. In fact, it is recommended that children need around one hour’s worth of exercise a day, although this does not need to be all at once.
Of course, it is likely that your child is getting some exercise at school, either in the form of an organized activity such as gym class or simply running around the playground, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t encourage it at home as well.
4. Focus on portion control
Are you guilty of giving your child the same size portion as yourself? If yes, then you are highly likely to be overfeeding them. Although there is conflicting advice on how much food a child needs, and, of course, how many calories they require will be dependent on how active they are, as a general rule, start with a smaller serving and then add more if they are still hungry.
Also, avoid allowing your child to sit in front of a screen while they eat and instead encourage mindful eating at the dinner table together as a family. This should lead to your child eating more slowly and registering when they are full more effectively.
5. Limit screen time
Children who are allowed too much screen time or, even worse, those that stay up later on their screens are much more likely to be overweight than those who lead a balanced and active life. This is because insufficient sleep can lead to a desire for a quick fix, high sugar, and high-fat food.
It is worth noting that a lack of sleep can also affect your child’s mood and behavior.
6. Fill up on fruit and vegetables
A recent study by Harvard University has revealed the perfect combination of fruit and vegetables for enhanced longevity and variety is equally as important as quantity. As a general rule, children tend to prefer the sweetness of fruits rather than vegetables, but green leafy veg, in particular, is crucial for protecting your child against common diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
Fruit and vegetables are also packed full of fiber which will keep your child fuller for longer and, therefore, less likely to want to raid the biscuit jar.
7. Offer water rather than fizzy drinks
You may think that your child will only drink fizzy drinks, juice, or squash, but you will be surprised at how quickly they adapt to drinking water if this is the only refreshment offered to them.
Try to make this effort a family one and banish all sugary drinks from the house in favor of good old H2O. If they struggle with the lack of flavor when it comes to plain water, try adding sliced fruits such as lemons, limes, or strawberries or herbs such as mint.