Causes of Child Obesity

Chubbiness is no child's play

Causes of Child Obesity

For most adults and children, being obese and overweight results from an energy imbalance which occurs over time. This happens when the energy (calories) we consumed from food and drinks (known as energy INput) exceeds the energy (calories) used for daily activities (known as energy OUTput). This energy imbalance is a result of excessive intake of food and drink, especially those high in fat, sugar and salt, as well as reduced physical activity. Parents play an important role in shaping a healthy lifestyle and maintaining adequate energy balance for their children. Here are some tips to do just that.

In general,

Causes of Child Obesity

Energy Input > Energy Output: Weight Gain

Causes of Child Obesity

Energy Input < Energy Output: Weight Loss

Causes of Child Obesity

Energy Input = Energy Output: Weight stays the same

Nurturing Healthy Eating Habits

Provide regular meals

Ensuring that children have regular meals will prevent them from over-eating at other times. Having breakfast is important as children tend to eat more to compensate for hunger later in the day if they skip breakfast.

​​​​Avoid stocking up on snacks which are high in fat, sugar and salt at home as this may encourage unhealthy snacking among children

Provide healthier choices such as a fruit, carrot sticks, low-fat yoghurt or wholemeal sandwiches as alternative snacks.

Look out for the HCS symbol to help with your food choices

When buying food and drinks from the supermarket, look out for the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS). These have less fat, salt and sugar compared to other similar products.

Causes of Child Obesity 

Avoid super-sized portions

Do not offer children adult portions. Instead give them what is required for each meal. For more information on the serving sizes children need, please visit 'Birth to Eighteen Years - Dietary Tips for your child's wellbeing'.

Give vegetables an interesting twist

Getting children to eat their greens may not always be easy. Try cutting vegetables into different shapes and sizes to make them more visually appealing. Use different vegetables to add colour to the food. Apart from vegetables, also remember to let children enjoy the goodness of a variety of fruits.

Engaging children in an active lifestyle

Causes of Child Obesity

As of Nov 2020, WHO recommends at least 180 minutes of physical activity per day for children 1 to 4 years while children and youth aged 5 to 17 years should have at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity per day.

Moderate-intensity activities are those which cause a slight increase in breathing and heart rate. Examples of these activities are brisk walking, cycling, swimming and dancing. The recommended daily duration of physical activity does not have to be fulfilled all at one go, but can be broken up into shorter periods of 10-15 minutes each time.

  • Make physical activity part of the daily routine.
    For instance, take the stairs instead of the lift. Take a walk to the supermarket instead of driving there or taking a bus.
  • Variety. Variety. Variety.
    Let children experience a variety of activities. This will allow them to find out more about different activities and help them discover their interest in one or some of them. Physical activities need not be limited to sports, it could even include exciting activities such as dance.
  • Limit screen time.
    Doing so will encourage children to engage in less sedentary behaviours and enable them to reap the benefits of regular physical activity. This will also help to limit their exposure to TV advertisements which promote food and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt. Such advertisements may influence their food choices and result in unhealthy eating.
Contributed by:
Health Hub