There is a fine line between being overweight and being morbidly obese. The menace of obesity is increasing in children in India and across the world. Call it a dire paediatric crisis or a harrowing health threat, but this is the fact of the moment.According to a World Health Organisation report, the number of overweight children under the age of five in 2013 was estimated to be over 42 million, and the number is growing. Of these, around 31 million are from developing nations.

At the heart of this menace lies our sorrowful obesogenic environment. Our children’s daily intake includes ‘instant’ food such as two-minute noodles, MSG charged chips, sugary jams, fatty maida noodles—often with carcinogenic accents in preservatives and colours. Such fats are unhealthy and on digestion release toxins that bring obesity, stunted height, breathlessness and diabetes with it. Children snack almost continuously—accounting for up to 27 per cent of their daily calorie intake. “They resort to comfort foods for emotional eating. Foods rich in sugar and fat gives them an instant rush. Gradually, unhealthy eating becomes a habit,” Mumbai-based nutritionist Karishma Chawla of EatRite 24×7 says, adding that one should eat purposefully and not foolishly.

With the growing number of obesity cases, the government has asked schools to not sell fast food and sugary drinks. They have been instructed to source fresh, seasonal fruits and consume food items within three-four hours of preparation.

“Kids have nutritional needs that differ from those of adults. Healthy food choices are a must. Discover healthier alternatives that low on oil, baked vegetable cutlets, pav bhaji with whole wheat buns, dal roti, fruit milkshakes and sprouted moong bhelpuri. Replace maida with oats, full fat milk with its toned version, cheese with hung curd,” says Richa Anand, Chief Dietician, Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital, Mumbai.

Shilpi Madan for New Indian Express

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