KT Edit: Start at home to tackle child obesity

Published: Mon 30 Dec 2019, 10:13 PM

Last updated: Tue 31 Dec 2019, 12:14 AM

Concerns should mount, and rightly so about childhood obesity in the country which is among the highest in the world, according to the World Obesity Federation. This despite campaigns that have been rolled out by government agencies who have been active spreading the message about eating the right portions and promoting exercise. The annual Dubai Fitness Challenge has also taken daily exercise to the masses and become a movement of sorts. But the message (and activity) appears to be getting lost in the cacophony of advertising and the rush of modern life. Parents are unaware of what their children are consuming when they are away at work or are busy with household chores.
Adults themselves are not role models when it comes to active lifestyles and food consumption. They fail to set limits when there is food in abundance. Eating more and stuffing the kids is considered normal in some families when a more balanced diet is called for. Supermarket shelves are stacked with a wide variety of choices, and for many people, it's food on the go. The UAE is also a hub of cuisines and a culinary lifestyle is de rigueur.
Busy lives often push residents to eat out more often - a vicious cycle that they find hard to control. So packaged food becomes a source of comfort and comes with convenience written all over it - like chips, wafers, biscuits, sodas and ready-meals that are simply heated and served. Preparing food from scratch takes time and effort which many working residents say is a luxury these days when there are jobs to keep and families to sustain.
Besides, there is the cost factor - fresh food is expensive in most cases and lacks the flavour of the fast variety that's also easy to procure. Soon the gustatory senses are in top gear and kids are addicted from an early age at home.
Now to the stats from the World Obesity Federation that should startle us: around 23 per cent of UAE children between five and nine years old are obese. This figure is expected to reach 26.7 per cent by 2030 going by current trends, and 21 per cent for teenagers between 10 and 19 years in the next decade. The solution to reverse child obesity: cook and eat more often at home with the kids; stop purchasing foods that are high in salt and sugar. Encourage children to play a sport, to go outdoors and exercise. The answers are within reach if you resist the urge to grab that packet of chips.

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