It can be hard getting children to eat more healthily and be more active. Here are some of the common issues families face and some proven ways to handle them.
"I'm not eating vegetables."
So how do you think you could get around this statement? How could you introduce vegetables in a way your child might find more acceptable? Do you know where to find find recipes and suggestions of how to serve vegetables to children? How do you think your child might react to a suggestion from you that they decide which new foods the family is going to add to the weekly shopping list. You could look for new recipes together and challenge your child to find one with a new type of food in it, then make it together. Start 4 Life has lots of interesting, inexpensive and simple recipes on its website
"I don't like fruit."
What fruits have you tried your child on up to now? How do you feel about offering different types of fruit from the ones you have tried so far? Would you enjoy making up an activity where they choose which fruit they would like to include in a fruit salad? How would you feel about allowing them to cut the softer fruit up with a butter knife so they can help with preparing the food as well as eating it? How do you think they would react to your mashing, then freezing, soft fruits such as strawberries, bananas and watermelon for a healthy twist on ice lollies?
"I don't want to give them an eating disorder."
Many children go through at least one stage of being fussy about food, and some parents have said this makes them feel frustrated, anxious or powerless. How have you been feeling about this fussy stage? How have you dealt with their behaviour, and do you think this reaction from you has worked? If not, what else might you do instead? What effect would staying calm, patient and determined have on their resistance? If you allow you child to only eat certain foods, what do you think might happen as a result? How could you address their fussiness differently so that you are not being pushy but are still encouraging them to try new foods? What types of foods have you tried to introduce?
"All the family are big boned - it's in our genes."
Some families do seem to be naturally bigger but it's important to know that your lifestyle has a big impact on your body shape. What kind of family project could you start that would encourage everyone to eat well and be active? What do you think would happen as a result? Are there any barriers that you can foresee? On the NoObesity: Family app (Search in Google Play or App Store) you'll find a section where you can set health goals and consider barriers and way you can work towards overcoming them. What sort of activities would your family enjoy trying? There are free activities in many localities. Do you know where to look for the ones in your area? There are also free activities run by organisations such as parkrun, which support families walking or running and exercising together.
"My child hardly eats anything at mealtimes."
How frequently do he/she snack and what on? Do you think the frequency or type of snack he/she has been enjoying are filling him up enough that it puts him off mealtimes? How could you manage treats better? What do you think might happen if you limit snacks?
As breakfast is the first meal of the day, what do you think should be included at this time? What about in other meals?
"I haven't got time to cook."
It can seem really hard to make the time to cook when everyone is tires and hungry. Can you think of any foods that are healthy and fast to cook? What sort of meal could you make with them? What if everyone in the family did their bit to help pull the meal together? What sort of things could the children do to help? For fast meal menus and recipes why not visit the Change 4 Life recipe section, where you'll find a lot of suggestions to try out as a family. It's worth cooking in bulk too because this means you will have home-made ready meals available for super quick healthy dinners, and it is also a good way to avoid food waste
"My child doesn't like healthy food. They'd eat nothing."
How often do you offer a new food before you decide your child doesn't like it? How could you get round the fact that your child might not like something new the first time they try it? What do you think your child's reaction might be if you were all exploring new food tastes together? How many times might your child need to be introduced to a new food before it becomes familiar to them?
"The rest of the family are skinny. I don't understand it."
People get their body shapes from both sides of the family and the possible combinations are endless, which is why some siblings/family members can look very different from others. Do you think there are benefits to be had from adapting your lifestyle and diet in a slightly different way to the rest of the family? In what ways could you still be healthy despite not having the same body shape as the rest of your family? How do you feel about occasional treats? Are there positive aspects to enjoying treats? What are the negative aspects. and how can you lessen them?
"Healthier food is so much more expensive."
Have a good look around the fruit and vegetable section of supermarkets to see what fruit and veg are on discount. Do you think you could buy these in bulk and use them to cook batches of food for the freezer? Have you shopped for food in the reduced price aisles?
'I just want to play minecraft.'
Spend time watching him/her play Minecraft - can be turned into a game outside you can all play together? Exercise needn't be getting your child to go swimming or running, so what activities might your child enjoy more? Are there any day-to-day activities that you could turn into a fun form of exercise (that gets your heart rate up for 10 minutes or more at a time) for everyone to enjoy together? How do you feel about this? If you need some inspiration, there are suggestions on the No Obesity: Family app (available to download from Google Play and the App Store) in the 'Healthy Choice - Get Active' section.
'We haven't got time to fit in any exercise.'
Exercise doesn't have to be something you have to go out specifically to do. What could you fit into your normal day of school runs and so on? And, what about after school? How might you turn that time into active time? Why not set goals around this? You do so in the 'Set Family Goals' section of the No Obesity: Family app (available on Google Play and the App Store).
'Where we live, it's not safe for him to go out and play after school.'
What options are there for you to do things as a family instead? Are you friendly with other families who might also want to join in? What time of day/week would work best for family activities? Are there places you could go exploring together? How could you turn the exploring into even more of an adventure?
'She keeps trying different clubs and then says she doesn't like them so gives up.'
It's important to let them try different things so they can find something they like. How might you encourage them to stick at something for longer? What benefits might there be to doing this for the whole family?
'She doesn't like sport because she's not as good as her friends."
What support could you offer to improve her self-esteem here? What might the result be if she moves away from the traditional sports and tried something her friends didn't do but that she is much more interested in? What sort of message would that give her?
'I do lots of PE!'
Children need to be active for at least 60 minutes in total each day but also need to reduce the time they spend sitting. Do you think the school PE sessions give your child what they need? What benefit would come from creating a healthy, active environment at home? How could you help your child get into good habits for life instead of relying on the school-led PE sessions?
My child's body shape looks much the same as most of the other children in his school/his friends.'
It is becoming more common for many people, including health professionals, to underestimate weight. In part this is because being overweight or obese is more common, and visually we begin to interpret this as an average weight. However, average is not necessarily the same thing as healthy. How healthy do you feel your family lifestyle is?
'I don't know how to cook anything from scratch expect beans on toast.'
Well that is an excellent start as this can be quite a healthy meal. If you are interested in learning how to cook, which is a great way to save money, then check out your local city council website to see where free cookery classes are offered. Also many recipe websites offer easy-to-follow step by step recipes with photos showing each step.
'All the sports clubs cost so much. I can't afford it.'
Sports clubs are expensive but there are plenty of things that are free in your community, for example parkrun. What other kinds of activities could you do for exercise? Check your local council website. local paper and local county website for free activities on offer in your area.
The No Obesity: Family app is available to download for free via Google Play and the App Store.
Content credit: Health Education Thames Valley