Expert advice to help you maintain a healthy weight
Dissatisfied with your weight?
We're bombarded with scare stories about weight, from size zero to the obesity 'epidemic'. But a healthy weight is determined by different factors for each of us. Our expert advice is designed to help you achieve and maintain a healthy, life-enhancing weight.
Overweight or underweight?
Being the right weight has a positive effect on wellbeing but also on our health, as being the wrong weight can cause a range of medical problems.
As children get older, they have an increasing amount of freedom over food choice and often eat outside the home. Peer pressure and advertising also start to play their part in your children’s food preferences.
Nutrition and children
Although their growth is slower than in infancy, school-aged children still have high nutritional needs but fairly small appetites. So it's crucial all meals and snacks continue to be rich in nutrients and energy. The food choices children make during the crucial years of development can influence their future health risk and can also influence food habits in later life.
A structured eating plan with regular meals and snacks is important to establish good eating habits. Ensure there's also plenty of variety - burgers and chips are fine occasionally, but not for every meal.
A limited number of foods makes it difficult to obtain the full range of nutrients. Make sure your child has a range of foods based on each of the main food groups.
School children still have a high energy requirement for growth and activity, but increasing numbers are becoming overweight. This is because they’re eating too many calories and not being active enough to use up the extra energy they’ve eaten.
If you think your child is putting on too much weight, don't make a big issue of it. Instead, encourage physical activity in whatever form (football, netball, walking the dog, cycling, swimming and so on).
Base meals and snacks on the five main food groups, but limit fatty and sugary snacks.
An overweight child still needs a nutrient-packed diet that provides all the essential building blocks for growth and development. Encouraging healthy eating should ensure children maintain a healthy weight. Make sure the whole family is eating healthily to provide good role models.
This mineral is important for healthy bone development. Good sources include dairy products such as milk, cheese, yoghurt and fromage frais, as well as fortified orange juice, green leafy vegetables, cereals, sesame seeds and tofu.
Your child should ideally aim for three servings of calcium-rich food a day - for example, a 150ml glass of milk, a small pot of yoghurt and a small matchbox-sized piece of cheese.
This vitamin is important for growth, but intake is low in some children, especially those who skip breakfast because fortified cereals are a good source of folate. Other sources include bread, green leafy vegetables and pulses.
This mineral helps to keep red blood cells healthy. Insufficient iron intake can lead to iron-deficiency anaemia, but this is much less common in primary school–aged children than their younger and older siblings.
Good sources of iron include red meat, liver, fortified breakfast cereals, beans and pulses.
To help absorb the iron more effectively from non-meat sources, combine it with vitamin C-rich foods such as citrus fruits and fruit juice.
Fatty and sugary foods
This group includes spreading fats (such as butter), cooking oils, sugar, biscuits, cakes, crisps, sweets, cream and ice cream, chocolate and sugary drinks. These foods shouldn't be eaten too often and, when they are, should only be consumed in small amounts.
They're loaded with calories, fat and sugar, and don't necessarily contain many vitamins and minerals. Also, sugary foods and drinks (including fruit juice) can increase the risk of dental decay.
Limit the amount of sugar and sweets eaten, and offer them at the end of meals, rather than in-between.
Some sugar-free or diet drinks can also cause decay because of their acidity. Milk or water is the best drink between meals.