4 Quick Changes Your Family Can Make to Prevent Childhood Obesity

Jennifer Buttner


February 17, 2016

outdoors family

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With 1 in 4 children now overweight or obese in Ireland, and obese children likely to become obese adults, it’s time to make some adjustments in our family lives. And we need to start when the children are young. Food Rebels Ireland has 4 quick changes your family can make to prevent childhood obesity and to help improve your family lifestyle.

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The statistics are frightening. There has been a sharp increase in the amount of overweight or obese people in this country. The Irish Department of Health found that 60% of the Irish public are overweight or obese. Not only that, but the WHO forecasts that Ireland is on track to become the most obese country in Europe, with 87% of adults expected to be overweight by 2030 if current trends continue.

But, it’s not all bad news. There are some simple changes we can make in our homes and daily lives to prevent obesity, and help stop this current trend.

Food Rebels Ireland, the campaign that helps childcare providers and parents to prevent childhood obesity, suggests 4 simple changes that families can make now.

#1. Prioritise a Wholesome Breakfast


Prioritise a varied and wholesome breakfast – breakfast is, after all, one of three equally important meals of the day.

Include options like:

  • porridge (with or without jam)
  • wheat biscuits with chopped banana
  • boiled egg and whole-wheat toast soldiers
  • cereal flakes with yoghurt (ensuring getting intake of dairy) and berries

#2. White to Brown

brown bread toast

Switch the family from white rice, pasta and bread to brown wholegrain alternatives. You may need to do this gradually, depending on your children’s tastes.

At dinner timer, aim to cook whole-grain pasta and rice for dinner instead of white. And at breakfast, switch to wholegrain cereals and wholegrain bread where practical.

#3. Add Steps to Each Day

Free Things to Do with Kids Family Exercise

Add five minutes of movement to every hour. Use every opportunity to move.

Here are a few ideas:

  • musical chairs
  • star-jumps
  • dancing on the spot
  • walking
  • playing out doors

The goal is to achieve no less than five thousand steps per child per day.

Safefood’s infographic shows that 4 out of 5 children are not meeting the recommended physical activity guidelines for 60 minutes per day.

Walking to school figures have halved, from 50% in 1981 to 25% in 2014, so we now need to be more innovative in ensuring that our children get their daily recommended physical activity. Try replacing screen time with active games – here are 10 Fun Games to Get the Family Exercising.

#4. Portion Size

childrens-dinner-cutlery_02A 5 year old needs about half the amount an adult eats, and should have plates and cutlery that matches their size.

  • Vegetables should make up half the dinner plate.
  • Colour to be a priority (carrots and broccoli, sweet potato and cabbage, corn and peas).
  • Children need to be encouraged to eat from all parts of the plate but not to finish their plate, unless hungry to do so.
  • Fruit to be offered twice daily, at snack time.

About Food Rebels Ireland

Food Rebels Ireland

Food Rebels Ireland, the brainchild of Fiona McLoughlin Healy, is a preventative campaign for childcare providers and parents to help prevent childhood obesity in Ireland.The earlier we tackle obesity and our habits, the better chance we have of beating it.

It is not always obvious which food is healthy and what portion sizes are appropriate – Food Rebels Ireland cuts through the plethora of confusing messages to educate childcare workers, parents, and children about healthier food choices.

Why not suggest to your childcare provider to sign up to the Food Rebels Ireland programme, and ensure your child’s health and wellbeing is being promoted and encouraged from a young age!

For more information see Food Rebels Blogcall 045-430046, and follow Food Rebels on Facebook.

4 Quick Changes Your Family Can Make to Prevent Childhood Obesity

Over to you! Have you any other suggestions for changes you have made in your family? Let us know in the comments below.


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