childhood obesity prevention in schools

Obesity in children has reached to epidemic proportions. And our nation’s psychological and physical health is significantly impacted by it. According to research, children who are obese and overweight are more prone to develop into obese adults. Moreover, their risk of getting diseases such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes when they are young is much higher. 1 out of 10 children suffer from obesity when they enter primary school. However, what can be done by schools for its prevention?

Tips on Childhood Obesity Prevention in Schools

1. Promote Healthy Habits of Eating

The first thing that schools can do is to educate children about healthy habits of eating so that they are able to recognize the kind of food which is healthy for their system and bodies. One of the ways in which this can be promoted is to cultivate a garden in school where vegetables can be grown. Then teachers may highlight to the children the link that exists between foods grown at home and good health and also how different kinds of meals can be prepared from these foods.

2. Focus on Menus of Lunches

Healthy meals at schools should be provided to children. The new scheme of government under which a free lunch is offered at school to all children at primary schools up to age of seven years is a good initiative. It offers some control on the kind of food children are eating at school. Ensuring that meals provided at schools contain healthy foods is an excellent way to make sure that children receive the correct nutrients they require to thrive.

3. Enhance High-Quality Physical Education

For childhood obesity prevention in schools, strict guidelines has been set by the government regarding the amount of physical exercise that every child of primary school should be getting; however, the onus lies on individual schools to make sure that the program runs successfully. Schools should not only promote physical education lessons regularly but also encourage extra-curricular sports and active playtimes whenever possible.

4. Regular Contact Should Be Maintained with Parents

The major influence on a child’s obesity is of parents; hence, schools should maintain regular contact with parents so that any issues of child may be worked upon closely between teachers and parents. Moreover, constant contact between parents and school is also essential to promote healthy habits of eating-it cannot just simply be learnt; it requires role-modeling and constant reinforcement.

5. Promote Right Messages

The schools should promote right messages to children regarding healthy lifestyles. For instance, schools which otherwise promote healthy habits of eating but give sweets as reward to their children send wrong messages. Hence, developing robust policies by schools for physical activity and food are essential for them to maintain consistency and promoting right messages.

6. Change Policies Made by the Government

Currently there are limitations by the government regarding things that can be done for childhood obesity prevention in schools. It cannot be managed by the schools alone. It is essential that parents work closely with schools. Moreover, guidance, resources, expert support and a flexible curriculum is important so that schools can freely dedicate much more time to physical activity and healthy eating.

How Can Parents Help in Preventing Childhood Obesity?

Parents make a big role in preventing childhood obesity. Try the following tips.

1. Encourage healthy habits of eating. Small changes may result in success.

  • Given them lots of fruits, whole-grain and vegetable products.
  • Include non-fat or low-fat dairy or milk products.
  • Choose poultry, lean meats, lentils, beans and fish for protein.
  • Serve reasonably sized or small sized portions.
  • Encourage your kids to drink plenty of water.
  • Limit sugar, beverages (sugar-sweetened), saturated fat and sodium.

2. Make their favorite recipes healthier. Certain of your favorite dishes may turn healthier by making some changes. You may also try certain new dishes that are heart healthy that may become your favorite.

3. Remove temptations that are rich in calories. Treats should be given in moderate amounts. Limiting high-sugar, salty and high-fat snacks may help in developing healthy habits of eating in your children. Some examples of making low-sugar and low-fat treats, which are 100 calories or less are:

  • 1 cup of grapes
  • 1 cup of blueberries
  • One medium size apple
  • One medium banana
  • 1 cup of broccoli, bell peppers or carrots with two tbsp hummus

4. Make your children understand the health benefits of physical activity. Teach them the health benefits of physical activity such as:

  • It strengthens bones.
  • It reduces blood pressure.
  • It reduces anxiety and stress.
  • It increases your self esteem.
  • It helps in management of weight.

5.  Help your children stay active. Teens and children should do at least one hour of physical activity (moderate intensity) on most days of week if possible. You should be a role model to your kid. Add physical activity/exercise to your routine and ask your kids to accompany you. Some instances of physical activity (moderate intensity) are:

  • Playing tag
  • Brisk walking
  • Playing soccer
  • Jumping rope
  • Dancing
  • Swimming 

6. Reduce your kid’s sedentary time. Though quite time or sedentary time for homework and reading is fine, limit your kid’s screen time for video games, TV and internet to not greater than 2 hours in a day. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, TV is not recommended for children aged two years or younger than two years. Encourage kids to do fun activities that they can do with their family members or on their own but which involve more physical activity.