Easy availability of unhealthy snacks and obesity are a double whammy for children today

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India home to the highest number of obese children in the world after China

New Delhi, 30 March 2019: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for tighter monitoring of digital marketing of unhealthy food products, especially those high in salt, sugar and fat, and alcohol and tobacco. In a recent report, the WHO/Europe observes that while data on the digital lives of children are scarce, the time children spend online, including on social media, has grown steadily. There is therefore an increased risk of children’s exposure to digital marketing.

The WHO has urged countries worldwide to expedite the development and implementation of a set of tools for monitoring children’s exposure to digital marketing. Monitoring the online advertising of unhealthy products to children is critical since heart disease, cancer, obesity and chronic respiratory disease are linked to smoking, alcohol abuse and the consumption of unhealthy food products.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Childhood obesity is a reality today with two of the biggest contributing factors being imbalanced diet and sedentary lifestyle. More than 30% people of the society including children have potbelly abdominal obesity. Most children eat out at least once or twice a week and have an electronic device at hand while eating. While there is awareness among parents on the situation, not much is being done to counter the problem. Elders should model the behavior they want children to follow and therefore, the changes begin with them. A healthy childhood is the only foundation for a healthy life ahead.”

Statistics indicate that India has the second highest number of obese children in the world after China. About 14.4 million children in the country are overweight as per findings.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “It is good to follow the concept of natural fast food which is the best. Some examples include bananas, orange, dry fruits, and milk. These have no side effects but only help in keeping the system healthy. Schools can act as the agents of change given that children spend a significant amount of time in the institutions. The importance of a good diet should be taught here, and children should be encouraged to adopt the same at home as well.”

Some tips from HCFI

  • Encourage healthy eating habits right at the onset.
  • Try making favorite dishes healthier. Few changes can make even snacks healthier.
  • Avoid tempting children with calorie-rich food. It is okay to treat them but in moderation and by limiting high-fat and high-sugar or salty snacks.
  • Make kids understand the importance of being physically active.
  • Lead by example. Indulge in at least 60 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity every day.
  • Reduce sedentary time. While reading is a good option, too much of screen time is not.
  • Replace screen time with the outdoors and fun activities to keep children engaged.