According to the SA Medical Research Council, 17% of South African children between the ages of 1-9 years are overweight. Eating too much, eating the wrong food or hours spent sedentary in front of TV or computer screens opposed to daily physical activity are the leading causes of childhood obesity.


Children can be cruel and the nastiness hurled at overweight children is often the worst kind of bullying. As parents, nothing hurts our hearts more than our child coming home from school in tears because of name-calling or being teased and ostracised by their classmates. But the cold hard truth is that nothing hurts our child’s heart more than his or her being overweight.

The threat of obesity is far greater than name-calling and if not addressed by parents and caregivers, can lead to lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and certain cancers.

Broaching the subject of a child’s physicality with him or her is a sensitive matter and if not done with empathy and emotional intelligence can leave the child feeling self conscious, unmotivated and isolated.

There are many things that parents can do in a subtle constructive way to ensure children do not gain excess weight or to assist overweight children shed the extra kilos and are put on the road to good health:

Lead by example: It is difficult to instill healthy eating habits in children if they have no role models and examples to follow. Research and set a healthy eating plan for you family and involve your children in the preparation of food. Teaching them about the natural benefits of each ingredient while enjoying quality time together in the kitchen.

Educate the school: If your child’s school does not already have a healthy tuck shop or canteen menu, insist that they consult a child nutritionist and revise their food choices.

Love the lunchbox: Pack healthy lunchboxes and snacks for your children but be sure to make it appealing and enticing otherwise the school dustbins will swallow it rather than your child. Get some great lunchbox ides here.

Hydrate: Getting children into the healthy habit of drinking water rather than sodas. According to a study led by researchers at Queens College of the City University of New York, children need between five and eight cups of water each day.

Make sweets a treat: Moderation is key. Children love sweets and they should not be denied a treat at special times.

Be active together: Family fun should be fit fun. Ball games in the garden, swimming, beach walks, picnic cricket or volleyball, dance marathons, indoors obstacle courses and bicycle rides are great family team building initiatives. Be creative with your ideas and challenge your children to come up with their own family fun exercises.

Be a sport: Insist that your child participates in at least one winter and one summer sport, whether at school or a local club, but let your child make the choices so that he or she is more committed and enthusiastic.

Ensure quality healthcare: Access to good quality healthcare in the unfortunate event of your child falling sick is imperative to ensuring they are quickly and professionally diagnosed and treated. View Essential Med’s policy options to determine which is best for your family.

What are your suggestions on how to keep our children healthy?