Lockdown measures including school closures due to COVID-19 have affected young people’s activity patterns and obesity status (1). Furthermore, as school is an important location with many factors (e.g., physical education classes, extracurricular physical activity requirement) this has increased youths’ obesity risk (2).
Research has shown that health status in early life sets the trajectory into adult life. Therefore it is very important to maintain a healthy body weight to prevent complications and comorbidities associated with obesity such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, musculoskeletal pain and cardiovascular disease (3).
Where do we go from here?
Here are our Paediatric Dietitians top tips:
- 1 hour activity: do more activities that your child enjoys (playing in the park, tennis, canoeing, cycling etc)
- Structure and Routine: Consume 3 regular balanced meals, focusing on protein to promote satiety. Skipping meals can lead to a bigger portion size at the next meal which in turn can lead to overeating.
- Establishing boundaries with screen time: Slowly decrease screen time, during the pandemic there has been a significant increase in screen time and there is no better time to start winding it down and to get your child moving more and playing outside.
- Increase intake of nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables: Nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables and fruits are low in calories, but are full of good nutrients and keep you full for longer.
- Limit processed foods in the house: Keep the treats “out of sight, out of mind” which holds true for many children, especially when it comes to boredom eating or eating to cope with emotions.
- Recognise children’s emotions: Verify if your child is using food as an adaptive coping mechanism. Get vocal with your child if you notice that they are eating significantly more. Ask them if everything is okay? And why they feel like eating- you’d be surprised to see that it is often when they are experiencing a specific emotion, especially boredom.
- Portion control: Everyone needs a different amount of food to stay healthy. Try and dish ½ your child’s plate up with vegetables or try and incorporate different colours of vegetables into their diet. Get them involved in the kitchen.
- Make water their drink of choice: You can add fruits into your water overnight to sweeten it naturally. Keeping your child hydrated throughout the day will help prevent them from being confused between their thirst and hunger signals.
If you feel that you are struggling with your child’s intake and weight, it is important to speak to a dietitian to put steps in place to prevent further weight gain and complications. Click here to book a consultation with our paediatric dietitian.
Read our next post on Omega-3 and autism.
Jia, P., Zhang, L., Yu, W. et al. Impact of COVID-19 lockdown on activity patterns and weight status among youths in China: the COVID-19 Impact on Lifestyle Change Survey (COINLICS). Int J Obes 45, 695–699 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41366-020-00710-4
Jia P, Li M, Xue H, Lu L, Xu F, Wang Y. School environment and policies, child eating behavior and overweight/obesity in urban China: the childhood obesity study in China megacities. Int J Obes. 2017;41:813–9.
Franks, P. W., Hanson, R. L., Knowler, W. C., Sievers, M. L., Bennett, P. H., & Looker, H. C. (2010). Childhood obesity, other cardiovascular risk factors, and premature death. New England Journal of Medicine, 362(6), 485-493