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Parenting older children and teenagers FAQs

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How can I teach my child healthy eating and exercise habits?

Child and adolescent obesity are a growing public health crisis. Around a third of children finish primary school overweight.

The best way to prevent childhood obesity and related health problems that can last into adulthood is to give your child a healthy start, with good eating habits and an enjoyment of exercise that can last a lifetime. Some tips for doing this include:

  • Don't use food as a reward. Instead, reward your child with praise, hugs, attention, and fun activities - like a bike ride with Mum or Dad.
  • Create opportunities for active play. Turn off the TV and video games and go to the park to walk the dog, throw a ball, or play beat the goalie. When you go along, your child will have more fun and you'll get some healthy exercise too.
  • Avoid the temptations of high fat and high sugar foods like sweets, chips, and sugary soft drinks by keeping them out of the house. Instead, fill the fridge and cupboards with healthy snacks like fresh fruit, raw vegetables cut into slices with a yogurt dip, pitta breads, lean sliced meats, yogurt, raisins, and other unsweetened dried fruit.
  • Limit the amount of time your child watches TV. Studies show a clear correlation between the amount of time a child watches TV and his or her weight, and programmes designed to cut TV time have led to weight loss in children. They'll also see fewer ads for junk and fast food.
  • Serve healthy meals at home as much as possible, rather than eating out. You can involve your child in cooking and eating healthy foods from a young age by letting them help plan menus and take on small tasks. Younger children can help wash fruits and vegetables and help you stir liquids; as they get older, children can set the table, peel fruit, and help measure ingredients.
  • When you go shopping, encourage your child to help you choose healthy foods. Talk to them about the nutrition we get from different foods. They'll be more likely to eat a healthy snack if they helped pick it out!
  • Get more tips from the government's Change4Life campaign website.
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