While passing by a school or a college, as an observer, I found that six out of ten young children and adolescents are obese. Even those who do not look obese or rather thin also carry high body fat – the unhealthiest tissue of the body; additionally very less muscle mass- the healthiest tissue of the body. This is called as lean obesity which looms in Indian children.
Obesity is a matter of utmost concern as this high body fat is the beginning of the genesis of an inflammatory environment in the body, which is the root cause of early onset of non communicable diseases like pre-diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, polycystic ovarian disease , bone disorders and so on.
Food can work as a medication provided we use it like a medicine! If we know our everyday foods, their quantum, and frequency of consumption it works like a medication. Thus, by understanding the concept of daily nutrition and lifestyle mantra we enable ourselves to tilt the internal balance of the body in favour of the synthesis of those substances which are protective and in essence put away the risk of degenerative diseases.
To help prevent childhood obesity, cultivate healthy eating habits:
- Do not skip the breakfast: Plan wholesome, nutrient dense and convenient options. Ideal Combination includes a source of Good quality Protein (Egg whites/ low fat milk or yoghurt/chicken/ tofu/ low fat cottage cheese) with one to two servings of whole grain cereal base coupled with dietary fibre (stuffed roti/a thepla/bran bread sandwich/muesli/ oats/whole grain flakes). Research shows that breakfast skippers have a high body fat.
- Snack smart through the day: Good quality fats through handful of nuts in your diet brings the right balance of fatty acids like Omega 3 and MUFA (mainly from invisible fats) in your diet. Replace your refined carbs based snacks with two ounces (56 g) of almonds or a combination of almonds, walnuts, cashew and pistachio.
- Use whole fruit as a snacking option: A minimum of two to three seasonal coloured fruits in medium size is a good option. You create a good Gut environment by the soluble and insoluble fibre in fruits besides the antioxidants. Based on antioxidant potential, the fruits which are rated highest are guava, pomegranate, apple, pear and citrus fruits.
- Say no to refined starches and trans fats: Which come from khari, ghutli, naan, pav, biscuits, roomali roti, burgers, pizza, rolls, doughnuts, pastries, etc. These are only ‘some time’ foods in rationed amounts. According to a research, children who consume higher quantities of refined starches and trans fats have higher body fat. Higher intake of restaurant food is also associated with increase in body fat content. Check on the options available in the restaurant and your frequency of consumption.
- Say no to empty calories: Especially cola drinks and the other carbonated beverages. Opt for beverages like butter milk, coconut water, citrus juices, amla juice, fresh lime soda, etc.
- Gorge on vegetables: Like seasonal leafy vegetables, and other vegetables especially cruciferous, coloured vegetables, variety of beans, etc. Regular intake of salads with vegetables is related to lower body fat. Be careful of the hygiene and sanitation.
- Consume lots of fluids throughout the day: Up your water intake by consuming 12 glasses per day.
- Engage in some physical activity: Make sure that your child takes up physical activity like aerobic play, dance – 10,000 steps and resistance exercise- calisthenics, yoga, or martial arts, taekwondo for an hour every day.
- Follow a proper sleep schedule: A child should should sleep for at least 6 to 8 hours every day. As lack of sleep favours accumulation of body fat, suggests research.