x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Keep an eye on their eating habits

Parental neglect comes in many forms. Now it seems it extends to the dinner table.

Parental neglect comes in many forms. Now it seems it extends to the dinner table.

As The National reported yesterday, bad eating habits and a rise in diseases like diabetes and child obesity are partly due to the inattention of parents. A new survey has revealed that children looked after by nannies and extended family members eat more fast food and are more prone to bad nutrition habits than those cared for solely by their mothers.

"Studies have shown that healthy nutritional habits that are formed early shape a life forever - and, unfortunately, vice versa," Dr Mohammed Miqdady, the head of the paediatric gastroenterology department at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City in Abu Dhabi, said. "A healthy lifestyle early on in a child's life will prevent the child from becoming overweight or obese later, and protect from illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and so on."

The seemingly never-ending spread of fast food outlets is often blamed for the bad eating culture that many children embrace in this day and age. But as we've long advocated on these pages, it is the responsibility of the parents to ensure that their children are not reliant on junk food, and are provided regular healthy alternatives.

A healthy lifestyle does not stop at providing nutritious meals, but extends to regular workouts as well. It is a regime that parents are far more qualified to provide, not to mention more responsible for. Children increasingly spend time away from home, and in this regard schools have a big part to play in promoting healthy habits.

Two years ago, a three-month publicity drive - The Fat Truth - was spearheaded by the Ministry of Health and Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, the wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The campaign left doctors and teachers calling for all children to be regularly weighed at school to help prevent obesity and diabetes. Such initiatives educate not only the children, but the parents too.

Obesity has been strongly linked to child depression. A parent ignoring their child's health is essentially ignoring their happiness. Keeping a close watch on the child's diet, with more quality family time and meals, will go a long way to ensuring both scenarios are avoided.