How to prevent your child from becoming overweight

The increasing problem of overweight children is not only known in America but also in my own country, Finland. The researchers are now afraid that this will soon lead into cases of adult-type diabetes amongst children. What our children need is exercise and healthy eating habits.

According to a research by the WHO, Finnish boys have gained weight during the last 20 years. Information from 2002 shows that about 17 % of boys and 11 % of girls are overweight. It’s a sad fact that almost all overweight teenagers also become fat adults, and thus the risk of heart and vein-diseases increases.

The reasons behind this problem lies most often in every-day habits. Children are no longer interested in playing outside or attending different sports activities but prefer TV and computer games instead. This wasn’t the case in our parents’ childhood where it was almost abnormal if the child spent most of his time indoors. Children need proper eating habits and exercise every day in order to develop normally.

The way you eat and what you eat starts already in the early childhood. It’s not easy to change these habits and that’s why it’s important to pay attention to these matters in an early stage. It’s good to remember that:

-At dinner times everyone gathers together

-Everything should be tasted at least the amount of a tea spoon

-Candies, snacks, cookies and lemonades are not everyday food

-You can eat sugared yoghurt and full-juice max one dose/day

-Ice cream, puddings etc. are desserts and you can eat them max once a day

-Buy healthy food home, food that forms the base of the diet

A good food-day for your child:


-Breakfast is important and it gives energy to the early lessons/plays.

-An easy, good breakfast is porridge, cereals or bread with milk, plus fruits or berries.

School food

-Lunch in school gives energy for the lessons, the breaks the afternoon.


-Prepare some snacks ready even for an older child, thus he learns to eat healthy.

-Children do like to eat also fruit and carrot snacks if they can find them in a box in the fridge.

Family dinner

-It unites your family.

-It gives your child a feeling of safety, a chance to share their news of the day.

-It gives your child energy for the evening, no need to search for cookies in the cupboard.

Evening snack

-A small snack in the evening is usually needed.

-It can be light too, such as a fruit, if the dinner was very filling.

-Good snacks for the evening are for example porridges with milk or berry mash.

12 wiser choices

1. Yoghurt. Most yoghurt with special tastes have a lot of sugar even if there is no fat. Choose natural yoghurt with no fat, it’s good with fruit pieces.

2. Muesli. Cereal muesli has a lot of sugar and hydrogenated grease; basically it’s the same as if you’d smash cookies into cereals. Choose sugar-free muesli, fruit pieces or dried berries give sweetness.

3. Cereals. Many cereals have lots of sugar and salt. Choose sugar-free wholegrain cereals with little salt (less than 1,7 %).

4. Sweets. Candies that are often sold in 400-gram bags contain mostly sugar. You don’t give your child half a bag with sugar so why would you give the same amount in the form of candies? Many chocolate bars are huge nowadays; a good alternative is small bars in a bag if one is able to eat just one bar per day. Choose to agree how to eat candies, for example for dessert 5 candies or put a 50-gram dose into a small bag on the candy day. Give your child a Xylitol (wood sugar) chewing gum after he has eaten.

5. Ice-creams. You may have noticed that the size of ice-cream sticks has grown during the last 20 years. Many ice creams have loads of chocolate, caramel-sauces and nuts – they’re good when having a party but not good as every-day food. Choose a small ice-cream stick or 1–1,5 dl at a time.

6. Pastries. Cookies contain a lot of sugar and hydrogenated grease. Cookies and muffins in café’s are often large. Choose pasties, normal buns or a piece of pancake.

7. Lemonades. 1,5 litre lemonade bottle is too big for one to drink. Choose not to buy lemonade every day; even once in a week might be too much. Make your child get used to drinking water for thirst. Many older children liked flavoured waters.

8. Chips. Most chips are packed in huge bags. They contain lots of salt and grease, that’s why it’s better to eat them less than once in a month. Choose self-made popcorns with little oil and salt.

9. Hamburger meals. Contain lots of grease and sugar. Choose healthier alternatives, such as rye buns. Instead of French fries you can choose salad, fruits or vegetables and instead of lemonade you can choose milk.

10. Ready-made food. For example pizzas often contain lots of grease and salt. Choose good alternatives such as soups that are light and tasteful, and bread, milk and fruit with it.

11. Parties. A small child cannot make reasonable choices from a party table. Choose to make every-day dinners pleasant. For your child’s own party you can prepare their favourite food. You can’t get your stomach full of candies only; don’t forget real food even in parties. It’s ok to enjoy in life, but in a reasonable manner.

12. Exercise. If your child takes car to school or kindergarten and spends their evenings indoors they might not get enough exercise. Choose to show example, it stimulates your child to move. They don’t have to have many sport hobbies but normal plays in the yard are ok. The whole family can go out together and play something, or go camping (in summer by foot or by bicycle, in winter by skis). Swimming hall and skating hall are also nice choices. Exercising together is good for the grown-ups as well!

WAU Finland

Source: Kotilääkäri-magazine (9/05)

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