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Keep an eye on what your children eat.

Byline: Nutrition expert recommends daily food regimen for healthy growth.

Dubai: The authorities in Dubai are making concerted efforts to fight obesity among young children in the UAE. The growing problem has been attributed to increasing consumption of fatty and sugary food items coupled with lack of exercise.

While efforts are being made and campaigns launched by various bodies to raise awareness about the need to eat healthy, Gulf News Senior Reporter Anjana Sankar found that many school canteens were still dishing out junk food to children.

Experts say that a congenial school environment can go a long way in inculcating healthy eating habits among children and hence urge more stringent monitoring on what schools serve their students.

There are plans in the pipeline to increase the physical activity of students in schools too with the ministry of education proposing to increase the number of hours of physical education classes offered.

Dr Amita Attlee, assistant professor, Department of Clinical Nutrition at the College of Health Sciences, University of Sharjah, said students should have better nutritious options as snacks.

"Children should eat a 3-meal pattern with two snacks in a day to utilise their energy and maintain a healthy weight. Depending upon the age and gender of children, each meal should provide energy in the range of 300-500 calories and 15-20gm protein. The snack should give about 150-200 calories and 10-15 g protein. The day's diet should ensure that foods from whole grains, green leafy vegetables, fruits are eaten in sufficient quantities to provide energy, fiber, vitamins and minerals required by the body," said Dr Attlee.

Healthy eating tips

1. Adopt the saying 'Practice what you preach'. Eat healthy and stay active yourself for your child to emulate you.

2. Encourage healthy eating habits in your child from a young age. Once habits are formed, they are difficult to change.

3. Ensure that your child eats breakfast. A healthy, well-balanced breakfast will keep the child active throughout the day.

4. Children often dislike vegetables. Camouflage them in their favourite foods. For example, mix peas or spinach puree into macaroni and cheese. Similarly, add grated carrots and mashed vegetables to kebabs.

5. Replace the canned fruit and vegetable juices with fresh, unstrained juices. Raw fruits and vegetable salads are preferable.

6. Concentrate on the portion sizes. Let them eat small, frequent meals rather than large meals. Large portions are likely to lead to weight gain.

7. Discourage nibbling in-between meals. Don't use food as a reward.

8. Pack nutritious snacks for lunch boxes. Their favourite foods may be cooked in a healthy manner.

9. Stock the refrigerator with healthy foods like fresh, washed fruits, chopped salads that are handy for the children to eat when they are hungry.

10. Store "occasional" foods such as cookies and chips away in cabinets that are inconvenient to reach and avoid impulsive eating.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:May 22, 2009
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