In Ireland there are currently 300,000 children either overweight or obese according to Kelkin. Irelands obesity rates don’t appear to be slowing down either which will have an increasing public health consequence as overweight children become overweight adults in years to come. According to the Irish Heart Foundation Obesity is defined as a disease in which excess body fat has accumulated to an extent that health is adversely affected. Body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference are used to assess a person’s weight. Children have high energy requirements as they are constantly growing.
A varied and nutritious diet is essential for their development. If children take in more energy in the form of food than they use up in such activities like running or playing sport, the extra energy is stored in their bodies as fat. Making a families focus about healthier eating habits instead of just diets makes it easier for the whole family to put changes into action. The National Children’s food survey highlighted that Irish kids are getting the balance wrong. Many Irish kids between 5 and 12 years have inadequate intakes of calcium, iron, folate and vitamins A and D.
On the other hand, Irish kids have an estimated 25.5% of their calorie intake as biscuits, cakes, sugars, fats and deserts every day, stated by Kelkin. Majority of childhood obesity is caused by eating too much and lack of exercise. As children nowadays play outside a lot less and spend more time indoors, watching TV or playing consoles, their energy intake will pass their energy requirement and this then will result in them gaining weight which later can lead to childhood obesity. As food sources are readily available while indoors, children who spend time more indoors than outdoors are more likely to snack causing a greater chance of obesity.
Tackling childhood obesity soon is vital for the child’s future and for Ireland’s future. If the poor dietary and exercise habits developed in the child’s youth are carried forward into adulthood they can have serious consequences such as heart disease. Other effects of obesity are Type 2 diabetes, cancer, hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, stroke, sleep apnea and respiratory problems all of which are very dangerous to the body. Dietary Requirements: Childhood is the most important time in terms of growth and development. It is at this stage in life that children’s eating habits are established.
Good nutrition during this time ensures a healthy foundation for all of childhood and life. The diet of children should be highly nutritious. (healthyeating) Calcium and Vitamin D are essential to help develop healthy bones and teeth. A diet including dairy products such as milk and cheese or eggs and green vegetables will ensure the correct intake of these nutrients. Vitamin D is also needed for absorption of Calcium. Protein promotes growth, foods such as meat, fish, eggs and cheese should be included in the diet Carbohydrate rich diet containing cellulose is necessary as children are active and require many energy foods.
Iron and Vitamin C promote general health and foods such as fruit, vegetables, meat and fortified foods contain these. Vitamin C is needed for the absorption of iron. Portions for children should be small and attractively served as children eat with their eyes. Snacks should be nutritious, sugary sweets and ‘junk foods’ should be kept to a minimum to reduce the risk of obesity and tooth decay. Sugar and salt should be avoided in children’s meals. Children who have an active lifestyle need a high intake of energy foods. All meals for children should include foods from three or four food groups and be well balanced with a wide variety.
Obesity among children is on the increase. The cause of obesity in young children in my opinion has been caused by the continuously expanding fast food industry and video and gaming industry. These industries have replaced physical activities causing a major increase to childhood obesity in Ireland which will in the long-term have a damaging effect on their lives as childhood as mentioned above is the most important time of growth and development. Children whom are obese are not encouraged to actually lose weight, they are encouraged to maintain their weight, so that when they grow taller they will “gradually grow into it”.
Parents or carers of the children should establish a regular pattern of balanced meals. Starchy foods rich in “complex carbohydrates” are bulky relative to the amount of calories they contain. This makes them filling and nutritious. Foods such as bread, potatoes, pasta and rice should provide half the energy in a child’s diet. Replace high-fat foods like biscuits, crisps and chocolate with healthier alternatives such as fresh fruit, smoothies and chocolate raisins. Try to grill or bake foods instead of frying.