Skip to 0 minutes and 4 secondsEVELYN VOLDERS: Most health professionals are aware that childhood obesity is an increasing problem, particularly in affluent countries. We know that people are less physically active. There's access to a lot of food and a lot of processed food that's very high in both fat and sugar. And this makes it really difficult for families to feed children in a way that helps them to grow up to have healthy body weights. And it's really hard to pinpoint exactly what we should do when we're working with families who have overweight children. We work with families to focus on healthy behaviours, and that can be difficult to interpret, I think.

Skip to 0 minutes and 45 secondsWe are surrounded by foods that we think are healthy that perhaps aren't such good choices. For instance, many children will fill up on drinks of juice, in particular, and that will provide them large amounts of calories that they don't really need. A simple message that we can give to families is that water is really the best drink. So we need to work together with families to make sure that the healthy choices are easy choices for the children and the parents. Many of these foods are very high in fat and sugar and aren't providing essential nutrients for growth and development.

Skip to 1 minute and 21 secondsConversely, if we look at fruits and vegetables, whole grain foods, dairy and meat, these foods are providing protein, vitamins, minerals, all the nutrients that a child needs for growth and development. So choosing less processed foods is a much better option, and encouraging and expecting children to consume fruits and vegetables at every meal is important. And of course, again, they're unlikely to do that if that behaviour isn't being role modelled by the family around them. If they know that their trusted adults eat and enjoy a wide range of unprocessed foods, including fruits and vegetables, they're much more likely to be interested in eating those themselves.

Skip to 2 minutes and 0 secondsSo parents have a really important role to play in showing children what is healthy eating, what are the best choices to make, what are appropriate serving sizes. Again, we've kind of lost sight of the quantities of foods that we should be seeing, and many of us consume excessive quantities. And there's many good guides, including the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating, that will suggest appropriate serving sizes for different age groups to meet all the nutritional requirements of that child. I think we also need to be careful about not labelling children as being on a diet. Again, that's parent attitude, but also, health professionals, I think, can help guide parents to keep that focus off dieting and more on healthy eating.

Skip to 2 minutes and 49 secondsSo I think it's important to involve families in the discussions. We need to find out what their thoughts are, both around their own child and their weight, but also around food and their own feelings around food. Physical activity is a really important part of the overweight and obesity equation as well. Again, we live in societies where screens take up a lot of our time. And children are using screens much more, whether it's the iPads, the computers, the television and so on. They watch a lot of activity, but they don't actually do a lot of activity. And I think it's really important, again, that families role model the joy of physical activity as well as how important it is.

Childhood obesity

Watch Evelyn talk about the challenge of childhood obesity and how healthcare professionals can work with families to encourage healthy eating behaviours.

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Food as Medicine: Talking about Weight

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