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By Pamela Barker


Childhood obesity has become a problem in Australia during the past 20 years. The Australian Bureau of Statistics released figures showing that the number of obese children had doubled between 1985 -1995. One of the chief causes may have been the growing popularity of computer and video games, leading to less physical activity. Today, according to the 2011-2012 ABS Health Survey and the Dieticians Association of Australia, at least one in four school-age children are obese.


Causes of obesity are usually a combination of unhealthy food choices, not enough physical activity, bad family eating patterns, and genetic disposition. Related health complications can lead to sore joints, sleep apnoea, and type-2 diabetes. However, the social consequences can be just as distressing to a child. Teasing and rejection can lead to low self-esteem, which can affect the child well into adulthood.


Some healthy lifestyle tips:

  1. Breast-feeding your baby for as long as possible can help to guard against obesity in later life.
  2. Limit between-meals snacks to fruit or vegetables such as carrot sticks or capsicum slices. Take some fresh food in an insulated bag with you on car trips, particularly when driving home from school or child-care when children seem to be particularly hungry.
  3. Ensure water is always available to drink. Keep children’s filled water bottles within easy reach at home and in the car.
  4. Limit takeaway food such as fish and chips or pizza to once a week, and don’t let your children overeat. Serve a variety of sliced –up salad vegetables on a platter – skip the dressing – and let them help themselves.
  5. Plan the week’s meals ahead of time, and when time allows, make an extra batch to freeze for another day for a quick healthy meal.
  6. Limit sweets and high-kilojoule foods such as sweet biscuits, ice cream and deep-fried foods to “sometimes” foods.
  7. Encourage your child to play active games and sports. Auskick (for girls and boys) and Netta netball and basketball are some examples of inexpensive children’s sporting groups that are located in most suburbs.
  8. Teach your kids how to easily incorporate exercise into their everyday. Walk your children to school or other places whenever possible instead of taking the car.
  9. Know your neighbourhood facilities. If you have a small backyard, be prepared to go to a park for play, or go bike riding. And if the weather is no good, make the inside times active by having a song and dance session, or set up games such as skittles with a foam ball, or hop-scotch with tape if space permits.
  10. Limit the time your child spends watching television or playing screen games, and encourage reading. This may be painful at first, but well worth the effort! Local libraries offer story-times for pre-schoolers, and book clubs for older children. Set aside a time for the whole family to get into a book – seeing a parent enjoying a read can have a beneficial effect on your children.


Pamela is a former primary teacher, and is currently completing a Children’s Services qualification.

1 Comment

  1. HealthKick Australia

    October 25, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    Some very quick and easy tips here Pamela! We especially like #7 :)

    We’ve long been told of the benefits of organised sport, those which serve to help our bodies both mentally and physically. I’s important to get up and get active!

    Active people are healthier and have more energy. They also sleep better and feel more confident and happy. And that’s not even touching on the medical benefits, including maintaining a healthy weight, stronger bones and muscles, lower blood pressure, and a reduced risk of diabetes, heart attack or stroke.

    Regular exercise can also improve coordination, balance and flexibility – as well as proving a good chance to catch up with friends or family.

    We recently wrote a blog post* on the importance – and many benefits – of children playing organised sports!

    We’d appreciate your thoughts on the broader issue.

    – R.S (tw: @ryanselvage)

    *blog post can be read here: http://bit.ly/1F8VrLH

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