One in five children between the ages of six and nineteen years in the United States have a body mass index at or above the 95th percentile, which is considered obese. Over forty population of the adult population in the US are also obese. In India, there’s been an alarming rise in childhood obesity all over the country, with over 18 million overweight children. And when the parents are overweight, their kids are eighty per cent more likely to have a weight problem too.
Are parents making their children fat? Yes, the reason is that the easy, quick, and cheap food options that parents are providing their children fuel an obesity epidemic. Canned, processed, and packaged foods have become the go-to option for working parents who don’t have the time to prepare fresh home-cooked meals. Instant and ready-to-eat meals have become popular alternatives. Moreover, children regularly binge-eat junk options like fast food, chips, and cookies as snacks.
“A typical Indian diet relies heavily on salt and sugar. They eat more convenience food that is high on carbs, instead of balanced meals.”
A healthy Indian meal can constitute a combination of pulses, fibres, proteins and carbohydrates
During the pandemic, these unhealthy eating habits only kept increasing due to the absence of regulated meals. A study found that the screen time for children aged between ten to fourteen years doubled as lockdowns were imposed globally. With the lack of a routine, there were also increased stress hormones, increased snacking, and emotional eating, which all contributed to increased weight gain in children. Parents and children also began to use food delivery apps more often.
The lockdowns made children more obese due to poorer diets
Of course, it is a proven fact that childhood obesity is a chronic disease. It has a lot of causal factors like a person’s genetics, individual metabolism, sleeping patterns, eating habits, and how physically active they are. Even other factors like negative childhood experiences, social factors like poverty and race, and environmental factors like financial status play an important role. But there are some other subtle factors as well.
When it comes to the packaging of these products, colour plays an important role in children’s choice of food. For example, bright red increases a particular food product’s perceived taste, while green increases its perceived healthiness. Children also easily remember the brand names of junk food.
Children should have regulated and balanced diets
So what’s the solution? A great way for parents to start is by monitoring children’s screen time and showing consistency with media limits. Get your children to play outdoors more often. Parents should also protect their sleep time, and ensure they eat balanced meals of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, fruits, and vegetables each day. It’s important that they read the entire nutritional label before purchasing a product and encourage healthier food and lifestyle choices. Because obesity is not just medical and physical health-related, but it also impacts the psychological and social well-being of children. With these right steps, we can prevent and fight obesity in children, before it becomes a larger and global issue.