Abu Dhabi, UAE: Dealing with fast-food advertisements, how to cope with picky eaters and cutting back on dining out - these are just some of the anti-obesity issues that experts will discuss on Monday at a parenting workshop.
Dr Kathryn Henderson, a health expert at Yale University in the United States, will be examining nutrition, exercise and how parents can limit their children’s exposure to unhealthy foods.
"We are concerned about obesity but it is not great for thin children to eat badly either," said Dr Henderson, director of school and community initiatives at the Rudd Centre for food policy and obesity at the university.
"Children who are healthy learn better, do well in school and then become productive citizens and enjoy a better quality of life."
It is important that parents monitor their child’s weight, she said.
Younger children are easier to convince - by not introducing them to unhealthy foods, Dr Henderson said. But she cautioned that changing the habits of older children will be harder.
"Early intervention is always the best. If you can start young children on the track, and older children start to reverse and change tracks a little bit - that’s the best way to go."
Dr Henderson, who has three young children, said the idea of persuading children to eat healthily is challenging, especially with constant fast-food advertisements on television.
"As far as fast food is integrated into the television they are watching or the computer games they are playing, I recommend limiting the time spent on those activities," she said.
Parents should also start to talk to their children about advertisements and tell them how to distinguish between the show they are watching and the adverts.
Avoiding fast-food outlets would also help, she said.
"Eating out in general ends up being a little unhealthier - even the non-fast-food restaurants. We know that, when we eat out, we tend to eat foods that are high in fat, salts and sugar," she said.
Dr Henderson also spoke about picky eaters and how families enable their children to eat unhealthily.
"In the US, we have given children so many options, so when they don’t like what is for dinner we have a very common problem - parents will make something else for the child or different things for different children, and cater to the pickiness and I think that’s one big problem."
Giving children too many snacks throughout the day creates a notion of "if I don’t love it, it doesn’t matter if I don’t eat it" because they are not hungry when meals are served, Dr Henderson said.
"We have created an environment where there are so many unhealthy but very tempting foods around, so it is very hard for the healthy and not so glamourous foods to compete and very hard to get children to prefer such foods," she added.
Half of the children aged between two and five are classed as picky eaters in the US, Europe and Australia, Dr Henderson said. However "most children outgrow that phase".
The workshops are free of charge and open to the public. The first will take place at 5pm on Monday in the Cultural District at Manarat Al Saadiyat and the second at Tawam Hospital in Al Ain at 5pm on Tuesday.
The events are part of a series of parenting workshops organised by the Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation.
Previous workshops tackled issues on the father’s role in raising children and emotional intelligence.
© The NationalApr 2014