How can UAE parents deal with obesity in children?

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How can UAE parents deal with obesity in children?

The UAE's influencers voice their opinions

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Published: Fri 8 Dec 2017, 8:15 PM

Last updated: Fri 15 Dec 2017, 8:50 AM

Being in the fitness industry, we've witnessed this subject becoming a focus for every parent. Children usually follow in their parents' footsteps and eating patterns, hence their food habits start young. In order to support children in living a healthier lifestyle, I've summarised our top tips.
Educate your kids on portion control and the difference between a healthy mean and an unhealthy one: you can do this by instilling habits like the 'five vegetables a day' rule, grilling proteins instead of frying them, taking care of water intake, etc. Fast food should be allowed maximum once a week, on an active day!
Invest in their health: take time to make their school lunches. I suggest you pack less dried food and choose foods with more water content - easier absorbed by the body and good for hydration and energy levels.
Avoid processed foods and sugary drinks to cut those hidden calories: they may be cheaper and easier to find, but cost more in the long run with health problems and diseases like diabetes.
Out of sight, out of mind: keep junk food out of the house. Your cupboards are easy access for after-school pantry snacks, so load them with things like fruit, cut veggies and hummus.
Have fun getting active: swap TV time with fun after-school activities. Fortunately, Dubai now has an abundance to choose from, for example our Kids Zumba and Kids Kickboxing classes. There are even activities that parents can join too. The trick is to find something they enjoy instead of forcing exercise on them.
Lead by example: children will follow in your footsteps. We've seen it at NRG when mums have brought kids to their classes!
Keep it positive: why not reward your kids to a special treat on weekends for getting active?
The damaging effects of how kids are influenced in the early years will take twice as long to reverse as it kick-starts medical conditions and low self-esteem. So, deal with the problem now. You will see a positive change in your children's mood, energy level, and overall confidence!
(Christina Guastella is a fitness coach, and the co-founder and director of NRG Fitness. Follow them on or@nrgfitnessdxb on Facebook & Instagram.)

I suspect that if anyone had told me that getting your child to eat a variety of nutritious food would be a challenge, I'd have shrugged it off. After all, how hard can it be to get a pint-sized human being to eat a juicy strawberry? In reality, it was a lot harder than I thought. While I enjoyed the tart sweetness of berries, my toddlers were convinced that they were worth squishing, not eating!
I always envisioned my kids eating like those in Annabel Karmel's books and while I used her as inspiration, I realised, early on, that the best way to get kids to make good food choices was to keep offering them nourishing options and to lead by example. Don't be disheartened if they refuse the first time. Or the second. Or third. They may decide on the fourth try that celery isn't so bad
after all! 
In a world where millions of young people in developing countries are undernourished, we are now facing the converse with approximate 41 million who are overweight too. So, how do we remedy this? I'm not an advocate for children dieting, but I wholeheartedly support encouraging them, at a young age, to make more informed choices. 
Instead of offering them a cookie, hand them a plate of crudites. Instead of munching on fast food, find better alternatives and make it fun. Clean eating need not be boring, so create a work of art out of the food that you prepare and aim for balance too. If they are strictly deprived of all treats, they will go looking for them more frequently. Also, try to avoid resolving a difficult moment with a sweet treat.
Finally, if we try to focus our energies on achieving our healthiest selves rather than our thinnest, we pave the way for well-adjusted and well-nourished young boys and girls.
Initially, it may seem daunting but once a balanced eating environment has been established at home, parents will benefit, as well as the children. After all, healthy habits lead to a healthier and happier home.
(Fathima Mansoor is the food blogger behind You can follow her for food inspiration @tableforfivedubai on Instagram.)

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