Our Children Are Facing An Obesity Crisis – Here’s What You Can Do About It


Don’t feel guilty. UPFs are everywhere, aggressively marketed, and minimizing your child’s consumption is, according to physician and infant nutrition researcher Chris van Tulleken, like “trying to quit in the 1950s.” He adds: “Even in the most bourgeois households, half of what children eat is ultra-processed. Ideally they shouldn’t have any, but that’s not the world we live in, so they should just cut.

Finding minimally processed alternatives is difficult, says Dr. Vamos, but besides being plastic or jarred, a good indicator of a UPF is its long list of ingredients. Watch out for anything that “isn’t used in the kitchen or is unrecognizable”. For example, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils or protein isolates.

Eliminating ultra-processed soft drinks is another big step, says Dr van Tulleken. “The only liquids children should drink are milk and water.” And that means eating whole fruit: “Apple juice, orange juice and smoothies – this is very bad – the sugars in the fruits have to be bound in the cells of the fruit.”

Dr van Tulleken, whose eldest daughter is four, says banning UPFs from your home only makes them more desirable, and suggests educating your children about their poor health instead. “You could suggest that they read the label, and then you could ask them why are they drinking a drink that contains phosphoric acid?” What are these things? “

Focus less on food and keep meals simple

Never make food a battle. Professor Ogden, author of The food guide for good parents, says our fight against obesity must be secret. “The last thing you want is food or body image to become an issue, so the more you can distract from food, the better.

“Try to fix the food at a time and place, so that you have breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, you don’t really eat in between, so that the food doesn’t spill over to be part of all. Eat at the table as much as you can, to make it a family occasion, and you chat but ignore the food. Then the food is downgraded.

Professor Ogden says we often use food to manage children, to reward them, for example. “If you do your homework, you can have a cookie. Therefore, food becomes loaded with meaning, whether it is a delicacy, or forbidden, or good or bad. This, she says, “gives food a special role in people’s lives, which is why they then turn to it to manage their emotions.”

If you must be enthusiastic about food, go beyond the cake, by touting the crunchiness of carrots for example. It’s also important that not all foods are always fantastic or delicious. Sometimes food is just food. And it’s just eaten around the cat.

Dr van Tulleken agrees: “Meals can be simple. Oven roasted chicken thighs with a little salt. I always make pesto pasta for my daughter in a jar, and we probably have fish fingers once a week.

Professor Ogden’s staples also included fish fingers, jacket potatoes, beans and cheese, and spaghetti bolognese which she cooks in under 30 minutes. “And that’s good enough.” Try too hard, she says, and you’re more likely to give up and resort to take out and ready meals.

How to tackle teens who eat junk food outside the home

It’s easy to buy less UPF when our kids are small. But what about when they’re teenagers? Our role when they reach adolescence, explains Professor Ogden, “is to make sure that they maintain a good relationship with food, because that’s when it can go wrong in terms of development. eating disorders ”.

Now is the time, says Professor Ogden, to make sure meals at home are healthy and active. But don’t worry about what they eat outside of the house or you risk exacerbating the problems. Roll your eyes if they still have chips, but that’s it. “And then compensate by making sure they have more veg at dinner.”

And speak positively about your body too. “If children are raised by parents who say they don’t like the way they look, body criticism is normalized and they learn that this is a perfectly acceptable way of thinking about yourself,” says Professor Ogden. “If they hear parents criticizing them – ‘ooh, you’ve put on some weight’ – again, body size becomes the goal.”

Roundness is often a phase anyway, so play the long game, says Professor Ogden, who didn’t let his own kids have full-length mirrors in their rooms when they were teenagers and didn’t have scales. in the House. “I would never put a child on a diet and I would never weigh a child. You can see by looking at them what size they are. If you want your child to eat less, then do it by secret means. “

What if they say “I’m fat” and you secretly agree? You respond, “You are growing up right now and I think you are fabulous. »Never make a child feel embarrassed or ashamed. You can admit that, like most people, they were less active. “But don’t focus on the food or the weight.”

Instead, says Professor Ogden, “Stop candy and chocolate by not bringing them into the house, and increase fruits and vegetables by buying and cooking them. Help them eat well without knowing it and be more active yourself and the family.

But parents should focus on changing family habits, not on the child. “What is going to have to change is you, not them.”

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