One hot afternoon I walked into an eatery while coming from an event. I was by the till when I saw this little boy of about 10 years old – a cute little prince, obese.

In his hand was a cone of ice cream and between bites and licks he blurted out “Mummy, mummy, I want fried chicken.”

Mummy replied, “No, Dami, you are getting the grilled one.”

His shriek was deafening. You could see the disappointment in his face. Then he decided to try his luck one more time: “Mummy I want meat pie.”

At this point, the Mum was tired, “Okay, add 2 meat pies please.”

A part of me was sad. Why? Because I knew there were a lot more Damis out there.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 41 million children, aged 0-5 years, are obese or overweight. 9 million of these are children are from Africa.

Nigeria is not left out of this scourge. The path to a child’s health starts from the cradle. From popping that fizzy drink into their bottles to thrusting biscuits and sweets into their little fingers.

Because of our lack of patience, our children are growing in an obesogenic environment.

How can we tackle the menace?
The most important way to prevent childhood obesity is nutrition. Do you know that exclusively breastfeeding your child helps to prevent obesity later in life? Yes, it does.

Get a registered dietitian to create a balanced timetable for your child and family. This is very important, as a registered dietitian can tell you exactly what a child’s needs for each stage of life is and can plan adequately.

Please, do not take your child to a pseudo-nutritionist. I have handled a case where a child who was obese was placed on some laxative teas by a pseudo nutritionist just so he could lose weight. To identify an accredited dietitian, they always have the ‘RDN’ title at the end of their names.

Once your child is 6 months old, do not run into the hands of packaged foods loaded with preservatives. Rather, make some of the foods yourself. Try blended fruits, shelled beans, blended potatoes, and fish. That way, your child has a balanced diet.

Reduce the way you get take-outs. They contain lots of trans fat and saturated fats, which are no good for children or any one.

Reduce treats. Ice creams, biscuits and sweets are no good for your children. Instead of fizzy drinks, let them have a fruit (let our children imbibe the culture of eating fruits).

Let children be physically active. How many children still get to have little play time outside, as against lazying around watching television programs or playing games 4 hours in a day?

Childhood obesity is gradually creeping up on us and we are enabling it. Give your children a lot of time to play outside, ride bikes around the streets. Let your child be active by doing some form of exercise as well.

Let children be involved in some house chores. Some families believe that it is a sign of poverty if their children sweep or are involved in a chore, but no, it is not. It reduces the time they have for television and some irrelevant things.

Parents, the future generation is in our hands. Let us train them wisely. Once again I ask, what is in your child’s hands?

Credit: Adeola Adeleye

Adeleye Adeola Omoshalewa is a Registered Dietitian- Nutritionist in Nigeria and in the UK, she is the Managing Consultant of Praadom Dietary Consulting Services. She holds a degree (BSc) in Nutrition and Dietetics from Babcock University and a Masters in Public Health from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine ( England).