OLYMPIC ACE HAS HEALTHY MESSAGE FOR UAE
Olympic legend’s message to UAE parents
Nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis has urged parents in the UAE to cook their children fresh food and play sports with them in the battle to beat the bulge.
The American track and field legend was speaking at Daman’s Healthier Communities Conference in Abu Dhabi yesterday, which is part of UAE Health Week.
Last week, Dubai Municipality warned a third of the emirate’s school population is overweight or obese, while Dubai’s Rashid Hospital said half of stroke patients are now under 45.
During the conference, Lewis said parents in the UAE should get more involved in their child’s daily activities to bring about a healthy lifestyle.
“If UAE parents want to start building a healthy lifestyle among children, they need to start them off a young age,” said Lewis, 55, who is regarded as one of the greatest ever track and field stars.
“All these fast food restaurants are not going away, they are always going to be there. Parents need to find the time to eat at home, that is one of the greatest ways you can teach your child about a good diet and nutrition.
“Kids today are very picky with what they eat, but if you involve them in the process, they will want to eat at home.
“My mother would ask me to grab the ingredients, stir the sauce and keep me busy while making dinner – so I wanted to eat what I was making, always. It is not just about helping cook the meal, but to engage them in it. And this also teaches them how to have healthier diets.”
He also urged parents not just to buy their children toys, but to play and exercise with them. Lewis added: “I remember when I first when to the track, my parents told me to think I was at the beach and make sandcastles in the long jump pit, so my athletic career started out playing in the sand. “Have that interaction with your child. If you buy them a bike for Christmas, get yourself one as well and go biking with them. Shoot a few hoops with your kids if they like basketball instead of just hiring a coach. “Whatever you want them to do, do it with them and their favourite childhood memory will be when you went out and had those activities with them. It worked for me and I’m sure it will for you. “Kids need to be introduced to sports, diet and nutrition at a very young age, that is what is going to bring about the difference in tackling obesity across the globe.” The ease of ordering junk food and ready to eat meals is bringing about an unhealthy culture within the UAE, a senior nutritionist said. Dr Anita Das Gupta, Chief Clinical Dietitian at Burjeel Hospital Abu Dhabi, said: “Parents find eating out very attractive in the UAE. “Most of our young patients have a sweet tooth, they eat a lot of junk food, have a lot of fizzy drinks, because they are allowed to, and we advise them to stick to home-cooked meals.”
TRACK GREAT: Carl Lewis