Childhood obesity is in the news on a regular basis with health experts calling for a nationwide programme to stop children growing up to become an obese generation. Research shows that the proportion of children with weight problems has more than doubled since the mid 1980s with 10% of children being diagnosed as overweight or obese. In a worrying development, some of these children are developing illnesses that are usually seen in overweight adults and experts are predicting that this will be a serious strain on the health service in the UK in coming years.
When we look at the cause of this growing epidemic of obesity it’s difficult to lay the blame on just one factor. We know that children in the UK do not enjoy the freedom that they once had. In times gone by, children would go out to play for the whole day during the school holidays and weekends, only coming home at tea time. They would be off in the woods or across the fields, building dens, climbing trees, having adventures of all kinds or spending the day playing football in a local park. However, this is no longer possible. Children nowadays lead highly organised lives, being ferried to and from school and participating in organised activities and clubs outside of school. It is no longer safe to led children roam free and this seems to be taking its toll.
So many of our children these days are leading sedentary lives – if they’re not sitting down in a classroom, they will be sitting in front of the TV or computer. Children have to depend on adults to take them to the places they need to go and parents and grandparents lead such busy lives themselves that taking the children somewhere where they can spend hours just playing and being active is not always possible.
However, the degree of activity is only part of the problem – we also need to look at children’s diets. Busy parents don’t always have time to cook a meal from fresh ingredients and many rely on ready meals or frozen items that are usually packed with calories, to say nothing of the additives and preservatives that make our food last longer. There is so much more choice available nowadays as well with new, must-try foods hitting the market on a regular basis. Fast food outlets must also take their share of the blame – they are on every high street in the country, at out of town shopping centres and even in the suburbs. More and more of us fall into the habit of getting a takeaway or going to a burger bar for our evening meal and these very rarely represent a healthy eating option.
While it’s not possible to turn back the clock and remove all these wonderful foodstuffs from supermarket shelves, there are a few steps that can be taken to try to ensure that your children don’t develop a weight problem.