I went to Disney World a few months ago and I was overwhelmed by the amount of larger of children I saw. We hear it on the news all the time, and it got me thinking about how this weight problem has come about, and what we can do to help. I asked the wonderful Jane Clarke if we could borrow a piece from her book on the subject, and here it is:

Many more children are overweight than was the case a generation ago. If this goes unchecked, they will remain that way as adults, which could mean health problems. To maintain a healthy weight for their height, you can help your child make small but significant changes.

Why are more children becoming overweight?

Many children today lead much less active lives than previous generations, spending more time in front of the computer and TV than playing outside. Eating habits have changed, too. Lots of families have lost the confidence and skill to cook – or simply don’t think they have the time – so they may reach for ready-made meals and takeaways, which can be high in fat, salt, and sugar. Snacking on high-calorie foods has also increased, and that’s down to the huge and tempting array available.

What is a healthy weight?

You may not be sure whether your child is overweight. Health professionals use the BMI (body mass index) to judge whether someone is obese, overweight, underweight, or a healthy weight. The BMI uses the ratio of a person’s weight compared with their height, and takes gender and age into consideration. You can plot your child’s BMI on a chart but it’s easy to miscalculate, so it’s better done by your GP or health visitor. Alternatively, you can use the BMI calculator on a reputable website, such as the NHS, and continue to check it every few months to see whether your child is making progress if they do need to lose weight.

Why does it matter?

Studies have shown that children within the healthy weight range tend to be fitter and more self confident, suffer from fewer illnesses, are better able to learn, and are less likely to be bullied at school. Overweight children who remain overweight as adults risk serious health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, and some cancers.

Time to talk

If your child is starting to gain too much weight, take a moment to look at the reasons why. Is it because he or she is eating the wrong things when they’re not at home, and getting too little exercise? Or could it be that something has changed at home or school that is causing them to comfort eat because they’re feeling upset? Try to talk to them about it so that you can work things through together.

Lead by example

Maybe you are serving takeaways and ready-meals more than you used to, or you may have become more sedentary. Think about any such habits that have crept into your own routine and cut them out, so that you can get back on track together. Try to take exercise as a family, making it enjoyable for all.

By Jane Clarke, author of Family Nutrition

Complete Family Nutrition

About The Author

FOUNDER of Nourish by Jane Clarke, BSc (Hons) SRD DSc

Jane is both a dietitian and Cordon Bleu chef with more than 30 years’ experience in the nutrition industry. Jane is the author of nine best-selling books, was a columnist for over a decade for The Daily Mail, Observer, The Times and The Mail on Sunday, and regularly contributes on TV. She worked with Jamie Oliver on several of his projects, including the School Meals revolution, which showed that people-power can bring about social change. It is with this same mindset and passion that she is leading Nourish by Jane Clarke, which provides a solution to the problem of undernourishment and provides empowerment and inspiration to those who are vulnerable or facing a health challenge. Jane was the first person in the UK to open a private dietetic clinic, establishing a highly successful specialist Nutrition and Dietetic practice in London that has been running for the past 27 years. She advises some of Britain’s leading sportspeople, entertainers and media professionals, and has been personal dietitian and nutritionist for David Beckham and Benedict Cumberbatch. She is particularly regarded for her work with those living with serious illnesses such as cancer, neurological degenerative conditions, dementia and stroke, supporting patients from early diagnosis right through to end of life care, across all ages, including paediatric cancers and early onset dementia. Jane has been awarded an honorary doctorate for her services to nourishing the vulnerable from the University of West London. As a qualified Dietician, Jane spearheads Nutrition and Dietetic practices in London and Leicester advising some of Britain's leading sportspeople and many of the world's biggest actors, music and media personalities, whilst also continuing to treat young children, teenagers and adults with health problems such as diabetes, IBS, dementia, depression. Jane runs a specialist cancer and dementia nutrition practice in Marylebone, where she treats patients referred by GPs, consultants, carers and relatives. Jane was David Beckham's Personal Dietician & Nutritionist during the 2006 World Cup, whilst also advising him and his team at his Football Training Academy. Her books include the best selling series “Jane Clarke's Bodyfoods”, Yummy! A Children's Nutritional Guide, Yummy Baby, Nourish and Complete Family Nutrition. She is also a regular contributor on British Television including all the major networks. She has written for The Daily Mail, Observer, London Times and The Mail on Sunday. She was the Nutritional Consultant working alongside Jamie Oliver, on his groundbreaking television series Jamie's School Dinners and Jamie's co-presenter on Eat to Save Your Life! "Jane Clarke is an exceptional nutritionist. She loves food and she's a great cook - what a tiger!" - Jamie Oliver

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