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.
In the UK, the number of obese children continues to rise. Currently, just under one in five children between the ages of two and ten is obese.
Obese children tend to become obese adults. This increases the risk of developing certain diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.
If you think your child might be overweight or obese, check with your GP. They'll be able to advise you on how to provide the right support for your child to help slow or halt their weight gain and allow them to grow into their weight.
Even if your child doesn't have a weight problem, it's important to establish healthy eating habits early on so they don't gain any excess weight.
Good nutrition in childhood is vital for growth and development. Establishing healthy eating and activity patterns while children are young can lead to life-long habits that will help to determine whether or not they're healthy as adults.
What's a healthy diet?
Children need a varied diet that provides enough energy and protein for growth and repair, and contains all the essential vitamins and minerals.
Encouraging by example
The best way to improve your child's diet is for them to see you enjoying healthy food options.
Introduce new foods from an early age. It's normal for children to reject new foods at first, but this doesn't mean they'll never like them. Research shows most children will eat them if you try again a few days later.
Don't pressure your child to clear their plate. Encouraging them to eat when they're not hungry can result in them eating more calorie-rich foods.
It may also lead weaken your child's innate ability to respond to signals of hunger or fullness, so that they overeat.
Small children need to eat regularly, but keep snacks to defined times rather than allowing continual grazing. Snack foods don't have to be sweets or biscuits. Try slices of fruit or vegetable sticks instead.
Portion sizes have increased over the years, especially when it comes to ready meals and snacks. This means children have become used to eating more calories than they need.
High nutritional quality is more important than large quantities. Small children don't need as much food as adults. Think twice when serving meals and make sure theirs is smaller than a typical adult serving.
Avoid the supersize, kingsize and '25 per cent extra' foods. Seek out mini and fun-size foods instead.
Snacks during the day should be planned rather than spontaneous, so children can establish feelings of hunger and fullness.
Offering a sweet pudding as a reward when your child eats their greens reinforces the idea that vegetables are unpleasant and something to be endured, while desserts are a treat. Try offering non-food rewards, such as a story or trip to the park, instead.
Foods such as cakes, sweets, crisps and sugary drinks should be kept as party or holiday foods, not everyday items.
How many calories?
The following table shows the estimated average daily calorie requirements for young children. The figures assume the child is of average weight with reasonable physical activity levels. It should be used as a guide only.
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Children are naturally active, so don't stop them tearing round the house even if you're craving a few minutes of peace and quiet.
Some sedentary behaviour, especially watching TV, is linked to increased intake of food, especially those high in fat, salt and sugar. If your child demands snack foods, try plain popcorn, vegetable sticks or slices of fruit instead.
Better still, turn off the TV or computer and get them out riding their bike, playing in the park or doing any physical activity they enjoy.