Dietician at GOSH offers tips on World Anti-Obesity day
Move to help families combat childhood obesity
LONDON: Niamh Landy, a dietician at Great Ormond Street Hospital, knows that parent power works. “We know that educating parents on healthy eating could be the key to combating childhood obesity. Making sure children have a healthy diet is important because it can reduce rates of obesity, hypertension and diabetes as well as decrease the risk of coronary artery disease,” she said. To help parents look after their children’s health, Niamh has put together a series of top tips for families to adopt today.
When eating with the family, Niamh suggests that families should avoid rushing mealtimes, turn off the television and sit at a table for a meal. “When you slow down, it allows the brain to ‘realise’ that the stomach is full so that you know you’ve had enough and don’t overeat. Giving your child small portions is also important. Remember to check if your child is actually full before offering them more food,” she explained.
When out and about, it is always a good idea to bring snacks from home. This will avoid the need to buy high calorie convenience food such as chocolate and crisps or fizzy drinks when out on a trip or shopping. “Snacks such as fruit, vegetables, crackers, nuts, plain biscuits and unsalted popcorn are good choices,” Niamh suggests. Choosing healthier options to eat and drink every day is also important. Rather than offering a fizzy drink give diluted fruit juice, weak squash, milk or water. Always make sure your child has a drink available to them to make sure they do not get dehydrated.
Ensuring they have a drink before they leave for school and in their school bag is also a good idea. If going for a takeaway, Niamh suggests choosing a lighter option such as fish coated in breadcrumbs, thin base pizzas with vegetable or lean meat toppings and grilled burgers made from lean meat with salad. “Of course, eating five fruit or vegetable portions a day is also essential to being healthy. These can be fresh, tinned, frozen or dried. Remember though that juices and smoothies only count as one of your 5-aday.”
Parents should encourage their children to exercise. “Making time for the family to get involved in physical activities is important,” Niamh said. “Being a good role model is essential to encouraging good habits in your child.’ Niamh suggests activities such as cycling, walking, playing tag, jumping rope, as well as swimming and dancing as good activities to encourage your child to participate in. Joining in with other families in soccer or softball games is also a fun way of encouraging children to participate.’ Reducing the time children spend in front of a screen, such as a computer, television or video game consoles, is also a good idea,” she added.
Landy is a specialist paediatric dietician for the Ketogenic Diet Therapy team at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Her undergraduate degree was a BSc (Hons) Human Nutrition at the University of Ulster and she went on to qualify as a dietician in 2006 with a PgD in Dietetics from King’s College London. After starting as a clinical dietician for adults Niamh soon turned to paediatric dietetics. Niamh worked for five years in New Zealand and returned to the UK to take up a specialist paediatric dietician post at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in January 2013. The dietetic department has a rotation system and Niamh has worked in many areas including gastroenterology, haematology and oncology, endocrinology, immunology and metabolic medicine.
Great Ormond Street Hospital in London is recognised as one of the few truly world-class hospitals for children. As a global leader, GOSH has top clinical and research experts working every day to find new and better ways to treat children. While breakthroughs and medical expertise are essential to the treatment of patients, GOSH also places great emphasis on the support and care provided for children by nurturing an open and supportive atmosphere, ensuring that parents and patients are well informed and closely involved in the treatment process. Children receive the highest standards of care and attention from the expert team of medical and support staff during their stay at GOSH, and are always treated with respect, trust, concern and openness.