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The problems of obesity and poor fitness in children

1. How much of a problem is obesity and poor fitness in children?

In the UK around 30% of children are obese or overweight by the time they reach reception year. Conversely other children are suffering from Iron Deficiency, Vitamin D deficiency and even rickets which had disappeared until a few decades ago. These stark statistics mean one thing- we are a long way from getting nutrition in the under 5s right. There are currently no standards for the food served to children in day care and there are almost 600,000 children attending nurseries for up to 10 hours a day, five days a week. These children are receiving most of their food in the first years of life away from the home. Childcare providers need to step up to the plate and deliver the same level of care to food and nutrition that they give to education and child safety.

2.  What services can you offer children struggling with their weight or who are unfit?

www.grub4life.org.uk provide menus, recipes and food and nutrition training to nurseries and children’s centre staff. Grub4life have developed a five step plan to excellence in nutrition and work with child care providers all over the UK to improve their standards. The website also supports parents by providing healthy family recipes, guidance on early year’s nutrition, weaning, fussy eating and dealing with food allergies and intolerances. Membership to www.grub4life.org.uk is completely free of charge and resources can be downloaded without any charges.

3.  What are your top tips for getting kids off the computer and out playing?

Kids are not born with a love for technology and television- they learn it. Of course these activities are part of our lives now, but ultimately children need to be taught to enjoy being active as well as enjoying Pepper Pig. This is easily done using family activities like cycling, going for walks or to the park as rewards rather than using sweets and confectionary to persuade little ones to tidy their toys away or finish their dinner. Involving children in activities with other children, such as dance classes, play and stay sessions and toddler groups is also a useful way to get them active and have a break yourself.

4.  Have you any tips for the parents of fussy eaters in helping to ensure their children eat a balanced diet?

75% of children go through some form of faddy or fussy eating. It is a normal, healthy part of development for children to start to work out which foods they like and which they don’t. It can take up to 13 introductions of a new food before a child will accept it so perseverance is a key asset to have. The other things which make meal times less of a battle ground is to eat together at a table, make the meal time relaxed (even if you feel stressed) and encourage children to get involved with laying the table and preparing a small part of the meal. Using food in play is also a great way to get children to touch, smell and sometimes eat fruits and vegetables- collages made from dried pasta, printing with vegetables and even growing some tomatoes, cress or carrots in a pot all help children

First published in Berkhamsted and Tring Living

Copyright Nigel Denby 2010

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