Children are becoming obese! Children are becoming inactive! They are overeating and over reliant on technology! These are messages constantly being relayed to us, negative messages that can make families feel like they are failing in their care for their children. But turn this on its head. Let’s see what you can do to help your children and your family become healthier this year.
In a week where we learnt that children in the UK eat more than half the recommended daily sugar intake before they’ve even left for school in the morning and in anticipation of National Obesity Awareness Week next week (9th-15th January) we look at what’s out there to help us as families in Wales to become healthier.
According to a Welsh Government report (Turning the Curve on Childhood Obesity in Wales, 2015 ) Wales has the highest level of childhood obesity in the UK and is one of the worst in Europe. Back in 2015, 34% of children in Wales were classified as overweight or obese with the trend increasing from year to year.
As parents, sometimes we may know not realise if our children are overweight, eating too much or doing too little. It’s okay to ask for help and advice.
Obesity and inactivity can have short-term and long-term effects on our health. If we learn bad habits as children then it can be hard for us to break these habits as adults, but if we can teach good habits to our children when it comes to diet and exercise then we are giving them a chance to lead healthier lives as adults and continue these good habits, even passing them on to their own children.
Are you filling your child’s lunchbox with high sugar, high salt snacks? It may be an idea to consider giving them school lunches instead. These are designed to be healthy, balanced meals and gives you peace of mind that they’ve had at least one nutritious meal that day.
If you’re not confident when it comes to knowing what’s healthy and what isn’t, if you think you have to be a great cook to cook healthily or if you think that cooking healthy sounds like it could be expensive, then ask if there are any courses or classes you can go to in your area to learn more about it and to pick up some great new skills.
There are lots of cookery classes, food education classes, and community food programmes across Wales. Ask your health visitor if they know of any in your area, or speak to Communities First about their Healthier Communities activities if you live in a Communities First area, or contact your local Family Information Service to see if they know of anything in your area. You could also take a look at Tesco’s Eat Happy Project, they run free Let’s Cook sessions for children across the country, take a look at their website to see if they’re holding any nearby and to book a place.
If you would like to save money you can buy fresh vegetables from community food co-operatives across Wales. You make savings because you’re paying wholesale prices, it cuts out on packaging and there is less waste and all money is put back into the community. This is a great way to help you eat a healthier diet. In Wales there are around 300 food co-ops held in all kinds of places such as community centres, parenting groups etc. Find where your nearest community co-op is by putting your postcode into their website.
If you are on benefits and have children under 4, or pregnant and under 18, then you can sign up to Healthy Start and get free vouchers each week to buy milk, fruit and vegetables and vitamins. You can get further information from your midwife or health visitor or visit their website. You can also search your postcode to see which shops near you accept the vouchers.
Walk or cycle to school. If you live close enough then this is a great way to start the day off. If you have time you could ride your bike or walk with them to school. If it’s difficult to find time with work then maybe you can talk to other parents and come up with a walking schedule so that you can take it in turns to walk each others children to school in the mornings, you can turn this into a walking bus and pick up children along the way with other parents happy to volunteer their time. Make use of footpaths and cycle paths.
Make use of the parks in your village/town. These are free to use and I’ve never come across a child yet who complains about not wanting to go to the park. They get exercise without even realising it, walking up the steps of that slide beats any step machine at the gym and climbing trees is great to build strength in your arms.
Don’t forget about free swimming! We’re really lucky here in Wales to have free swimming on weekends and holidays for children and young people under 16, take advantage of it!
Useful Organisations and Links
As I mentioned above, next week is National Obesity Awareness Week and they have a website where you can join their National Resolution to become healthier in 2017.
There is a section with exercise tips that includes this guide to fun exercises for the family at home, on a day out, in the park and at the leisure centre.
They also have a section looking at ‘what young children need‘ and ‘what older children need‘ when it comes to healthy eating. You can also find healthy recipes with ideas from the Healthy Food Guide, Good Food Good Health, BBC Good Food and Annabel Karmel amongst others.
If you or a family member is disabled then you can still take part in lots of sporting activities. Disability Sports Wales have hundreds of clubs and sessions across Wales; you can search their database of clubs according to your disability and your county here.
For any health issues then one of the best places to get reliable information is the NHS.
There is plenty of useful information on the Live Well pages of the NHS Direct Wales website. They talk about the main food groups and nutrients as well as share a handy graphic of the Eatwell plate that helps you to find the right balance of food in a meal. To have a visual representation of a healthy, balanced meal, makes it much easier to understand.
It’s great to write down things when you embark on big changes to the way you do things as it can make it easier to see where you’re going wrong, or right. You can find a useful downloadable food diary sheet on the NHS website. They also have a BMI calculator that may be of use for you to calculate exactly where you and your family are at and where you want to be.
This is a great website for families as it gives lots of free tips and advice if you join. There are lots of recipe ideas that are really useful and include lunchbox, snacks and picnic ideas as well as the usual meals. There are also some really great ideas to get active with the kids including these printable activity cards that give lots of fun game ideas to play indoors or outdoors.
If you are struggling to control your families diet and are worried about health issues then contact your GP. They can refer you to a dietician who will be able to help.
Your local Family Information Service should be able to help you find clubs and activities that are held in your area. Contact them to find out.
Do you have any advice or recommendations to help keep your family healthy? Then leave a comment below to help other families in Wales.
If you feel you need to talk to someone about this issue or any other problems your family is having then call our advisors on the FamilyPoint Cymru helpline. The helpline is open 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday. They can help you to find organisations that can help.