Lesson 9

What Parents Can Do To PreventChildhood Obesity (Part 1)

In my opinion,the most appropriate manner in which to introduce today’s lesson 9 is by firstly presenting to ALL you parents a BBC News website article written in March of last year by their health editor James Gallagher :

Parents ‘rarely spot child obesity’

By James Gallagher Health editor, BBC News website

Parents hardly ever spot obesity in their children, resulting in damaging consequences for health, doctors warn.

In a study of 2,976 families in the UK, only four parents thought their child was very overweight. Medical assessments put the figure at 369.

The researchers, writing in the British Journal of General Practice, said obesity had become the new normal in society.

Experts said the study showed the “enormity” of the obesity epidemic.

Around one in five children in Year 6 is obese and a further 14% are overweight,

Blind spot

The team, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the UCL Institute of Child Health, gave questionnaires to nearly 3,000 families asking if their child was either obese, overweight, underweight or had a healthy weight.

The results showed that nearly a third, 31%, of parents underestimated the weight of their child. An accurate diagnosis kicked in only at the very high end of the scales.

Prof Russell Viner, from the Institute of Child Health, told the BBC News website: “Modern parents don’t recognise children as obese.

If parents don’t recognise a child is obese then they’re very unlikely to do anything to help their child move to a more healthy weight.

So it becomes a potential major public health crisis being stored up. We need to find some tool to educate parents when their child is born, what they should expect a child’s size to be and not to be afraid of talking to parents over fears they, or the child, will react badly,” Prof Viner said.

The main explanation for parents not identifying their child’s weight problem is that society as a whole has become so fat we have collectively lost our sense of a healthy weight.The chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, raised this issue of overweight becoming the new norm in her annual report last year (2014).

‘Role models’

Commenting on the findings, the chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, Shirley Cramer, said:

“School education from a young age should focus onthe importance of active lifestyles and healthy diets to ensure our society is one that understands the relationship between diet and good health.

“Parents are key role models for their children and it is imperative they are aware of all the factors that can influence health”.

“However, it is not just the role of the parents, society as a whole needs to help enforce messages about eating well.”

She said restricting junk food advertising would help as would better calorie labelling on food.

Tam Fry, from the Child Growth Foundation, told the BBC: “To the obesity specialist it is incomprehensible that parents cannot tell if their children are overweight”.

“You sometimes have to wonder if they are in total denial, but when you realise that even health professionals may often have difficulty in recognising obesity in their patients, the enormity of our obesity epidemic sinks in”.

“The knock-on risk of extreme overweight to the individual’s and country’s health cannot be emphasised enough.”

A selection of reader comments to this particular article include  :


503. Posted byUdongein

 on 30 Mar 2015 16:19 @501

No fat people allowed? I take it you haven’t seen one of the latest in hyper liberal silliness: “Health at Every Size”. Yes, you could have diabetes and a whole array of health problems but you shouldn’t be a fascist bigot and mention that they could improve their life by losing weight while they complain about the side-effects of such bulkiness.Check your thin privilege!


502. Posted by homercles

on 30 Mar 2015 16:15

I think this reflects the dramatic changes in society in recent years. Playing with friends actively and outdoors has given way to sedentary activities like computer games and social networking. Also increasingly absent parenting to monitor such activity and prepare healthy balanced meals. Saying this though I do think it is much harder to judge what is a healthy weight for a growing child.


501. Posted by Tc1234

on 30 Mar 2015 16:15 495 & 492

What I don’t like is selective hypocrisy of people hiding behind PC for one thing, then happily behaving how they like for others. change the t in fat to a g and you’ll have the media and police round in a flash, followed by a twitter apology and a sacking.

support free the nipple or photos of menstruation and somehow you are a liberal icon. no fat people allowed though.


500. Posted by berserkerphil

on 30 Mar 2015 16:15 “Parents rarely spot child obesity”

Perhaps it’s difficult for mummy and daddy to see their obese children over their own obese tummys?


499. Posted by Tony

on 30 Mar 2015 16:14

Parents of obese kids should be charged with Child Abuse and people on here crying to moderator need to get a life


478. Posted by simonr

on 30 Mar 2015 15:38

Seems a bit short sighted now selling off the school playing fields. Diet is hugley important, but how often do we find completely contradictory adive for “experts” then the only tv shows that teach healthy all seem to be either sensationalist (obesity epidemic/we’re all going to die) or condescending.

government/education/broadcasters should make it very simple to access easy healthy recipes


477. Posted by U16195903

on 30 Mar 2015 15:38

“Parents rarely spot child obesity”

Really? Are they sight impaired?


474. Posted by MrWhibbits

on 30 Mar 2015 15:35

More parents are absent in the presence and ignorant to the responsibilities of their charges they have produced.

Too many children are now responsible for their own upbringing with very little parental input.

You just have to listen to how they speak at each other and to anyone that dares to engage them that has authority.

Be interesting to see what ‘monsters’ we are creating here….

So What Can Parents Actually Do ?

Who wants to deny their children food? The problem, however, if left to their own devices many children would eat cupcakes for dinner and popcorn for dessert rather than a well-balanced, nutritious meal. Perhaps one of the greatest hardships a parent has to go through during their child’s adolescence is having to persistently say, “No.”

It’s little wonder that ‘No’ is usually the first word repeated next to ‘mama’ or ‘dada’ in junior’s new but growing vocabulary, but, as children and parents grow older and arguments ensue, which, unfortunately takes its toll on both child and parent, parents sometimes give in to the pressure.

If not, any child is at risk to become a part of the growing obesity numbers in the under 20 population and just another statistic. Also, those kids that are prone to weight gain may spiral out of control if not for the discipline displayed by the parents. It’s all too common that after a while of ‘giving in,’ the ‘chubby’ cute kid can quickly turn into a fat one on the precipice of obesity, which is a harsh reality for parents as well as their children.


Knowledge Is Key

First thing parents need to do is to educate themselves on what it means to live a healthy lifestyle in terms of weight management and fitness.

It is crucial to understand:

“ Healthy Diet ““ Proper Nutrition

How much from each food group a child should eat

Portion control and calorie requirements for each age group and sex of the child.

Importance and application of regular physical activity for kids.

This kind of knowledge is absolutely necessary in order to instill healthy habits in kids that will prevent obesity and stick with them into adulthood to facilitate life-long, healthy lifestyles.


Teach By Example:

Children are impressionable. As parents, you see in your children their adoration for a superhero or the latest ‘pop-tart’ who churns out silly pop tunes for their admiring young fans. What you didn’t see coming however is your ten, eleven, twelve-year-old being the butt of jokes and ridicule because of their overweight / obesity problems.

You may ask yourself ‘how did that happen?’ That is usually the time when you have to take a long hard look at your lifestyle. Were you as a parent doing all you could to help your impressionable prepubescent teen navigate the waters?

It’s not a secret.

Children look up to their mother and father, which is a big responsibility for any parent, but as big as that responsibility is, it’s the parents’ obligation to do all they can to set the right example.

Unfortunately, many adults who have children do not realize that their habits, both good and bad, impact their child’s early years, which is why it is imperative as a parent to be the model of decorum.If your child sits down with a bowl of ice cream every night it’s because that’s what dad does. Perhaps the time has come for dad to grab an apple or a pear instead which will hopefully encourage the impressionable child to do the same.

Exercise is another area where parents can teach by example. If weekends are spent laying on the couch in front of the television, likely that is the same thing the kids will be doing or will shortly be doing.

On the other hand,if each weekend the parents are out at the park, playing tennis, walking on the beach, or playing basketball with the driveway hoop, then that is where the kids will be as well. (We shall discuss Encouraging Exercise for Kids in more detail in Lesson No.15).


Provide A Healthy Diet From The Start

It makes sense to begin introducing vitamin and protein rich food into your child’s diet early, but like anything else, in moderation.

An infant does not yet have the inherent tools to say ‘enough’ and will continue to eat, if the parents let him or her do so.It is therefore good parenting to start introducing into your youngster’s diet fruits, vegetables and lean cuts of meat that will provide all the nutrients needed for a healthy well-balanced diet. Again, moderation is also a factor. Just because your three-year-old loves bacon doesn’t mean you should let the child eat an entire pound!

The Food Groups

Grains™ Fruits™ Low or non-fat dairy™ Vegetables™ Lean Protein

The portions and daily servings depend on the age and sex of the child.

Sugar Fat and SaltSugar, fat and salt should be consumed in moderation.

The American Heart Association recommends that kids older than 2 should get about 30% of their daily calories from fat.Of that, only 7% to 10% should come from saturated fats, Trans fats should be avoided altogether.They also recommend that kids consume no more than 12 grams or three teaspoons of sugar per day.Recommended Salt Intake for Kids

s 1,500 mg per day for kids 1 to 3 years old s 1,900 mg per day for kids 4 to 8 years old s 2,200 mg per day for kids 9 to 13 years old.

CASE EXAMPLE : The Not So Happy “Happy Meal”

This kind of knowledge is absolutely necessary in order to instill healthy habits in kids that will prevent obesity and stick with them into adulthood to facilitate life-long healthy lifestyles.

A McDonalds Cheeseburger Happy meal has:

The Food Groups

™ 670 Calories™ 46 Grams Fat™ 7.5 Saturated Fat™28 Grams Sugar™ 840mg Sodium That is a lot of calories, fat, sugar and sodium from just one meal!Especially when you consider the fact that for kids age 4 to 8, the recommended daily calorie intake is between 1200 to 2000 calories max, sodium a max of 1900, sugar max of 12 grams and saturated fat should be less than 1% of daily calories.

Most of the foods included in the Happy Meal, have little or NO nutritional value.


Should you never buy Happy Meals for your kids? Maybe, that is a decision parents need to make. There are many super active kids who can easily handle the occasional treat of the Happy Meal.The decisionreally depends on goals beyond of that in preventing obesity, such as, heart healthy eating habits they will take with them into adulthood.

Should happy meals be nightly dinner? Probably not.

Healthier Options For Happy Meals:

Order apple slices instead of fries with the meal.uu Swap the Coke for water or skim milk. Next week in Part 2 ( ie Lesson 12 )  we will discuss Healthy Cooking for your Kids and include a powerpoint presentation ” THE ABCs Of Nutrition For Kids “.

To conclude today’s lesson before attempting the quiz, read (at your leisure) the following illustrative infographics



*** All ready for the LESSON 9 Quiz ? Click HERE.