an asian family enjoying a meal together

Eat Healthily at Home

Source: (The Straits Times 23 January 2011​) © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.

Q. During the last round of health checks done in school when my son was in Primary 3, he was found to be overweight. The teacher said my son needs to lose about 10kg to reach a healthy weight. We have always allowed him to eat whatever he wants. How do we control his diet now?

A. It is never too late to start inculcating a good and healthy eating habit in your child. Admittedly, it gets more difficult the later you start in life.

Firstly, your son must be convinced that he needs to do something about his weight to stay healthy.

Eat healthy meals as a family. Children usually model their eating habits after their parents. When eating out, remind him, constantly and lovingly, to choose healthier dishes.

Whenever possible, eat at home. Home-cooked meals allow you to better control his intake of the calories and nutrients needed for a child of his age. Cooking tasty yet healthy food can slowly change your child's eating habits.

Encourage him to cut down on deep-fried food, oily meals and fast food and limit the consumption of tidbits. Regular meals are better than snacks, which can be unhealthy.

Consuming less sugary drinks and food has been proven to help kids reduce weight and develop a preference for healthier food.

The Health Promotion Board website has a good guide to eating.

Refer to My Healthy Plate for a balanced meal. The base of the pyramid consists of rice and alternatives, followed by a layer made up of fruit and vegetables.

Meat and its alternatives are on the next level of this pyramid. 

Finally, fats, oils, sugar and salt top off the pyramid – these should be consumed in small amounts.

If you are still unsure how to change your son's diet systematically, consult a doctor or dietitian.

Exercise should also go hand in hand with his dietary changes. Weight loss can be achieved only when calorie intake decreases and physical output increases.

Dr Chang Poh Chong, who answered this question, is senior consultant at the University Children's Medical Institute, National University Hospital. The institute provides comprehensive and specialised neonatal and paediatric services as well as a 24-hour Children's Emergency service. Go to 

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