Many children skip breakfast, which means that the only way they can get the energy and nutrients they need to meet school requirements and participate in extracurricular activities is by having snacks. A meal so important as breakfast should not be left to chance. Children will most likely choose the foods they like, without considering if they are nutritious or not. At this point, it is important for parents to intervene by suggesting foods that the child refuses to try (a child that is exposed to foods they don’t like time and time again will probably try them eventually) and by encouraging the child to take part in the preparation of snacks.

Obesity in children and prevention

Obesity in children is caused by the overconsumption of food in combination with reduced physical activity. One in three children in the United States is overweight or obese, whilst in Europe, the respective rates are also on the rise. Diseases related to excess weight that were once manifested only in adults are now common in children. The solution is a balanced, healthy diet and exercise. However, children on their own cannot easily adopt good habits. It is through the engagement of the whole family and, mainly, the parents that this can be achieved most effectively.

The role of parents

Research on families shows that when parents lose weight so do their children who look up to them, especially while they are young. The parents’ behaviour will determine the child’s behaviour during the critical time of shaping habits. Changing eating habits and losing weight requires team effort when it comes to children. Besides, parents are the ones who bring food at home. It is better to have a lot of fruit in the house, rather than sweets. At the same time, if exercise is part of the parents’ lifestyle, then it is more likely that children will also exercise frequently.

By changing the household environment, a family’s new habits can be sustained for longer periods of time.

How to change family habits

Instead of focusing on a problem faced by a member of the family and especially your child, encourage the whole family to make a shift towards a healthier lifestyle. How?- Start with small, gradual changes that can be easily incorporated in the daily routine. Turn off the TV during meals, replace sweets with fruit or go for a walk with your children.- Set realistic, measurable goals, such as drinking one glass of milk in the morning and one in the evening for children or taking the stairs instead of using the lift. Also, cut down fast food to once a month.- Prepare for circumstances that may hinder your progress. For example, if you tend to eat crisps in front of the TV, make sure you don’t have any at home.- Celebrate your victories and reward yourself and your family. This will motivate you to carry on. When a child reaches their goal, pay attention and reward them verbally. When your family reaches a goal, come up with a healthy way to celebrate by organising an outing or an activity (e.g. picnic, mountain walk, etc.).- Be positive and focus on lifestyle changes and not on your child’s physical appearance or weight.Be flexible since changing habits takes time. Adjust your schedule and lifestyle and stick to it.


Creating an environment that encourages healthy weight:

  • Always have healthy foods at home and do not buy sweets and beverages than contain sugar.
  • Don’t make a habit of eating out, as meals at restaurants are high in calories; instead, opt for a family meal at home which is associated with health benefits.
  • Introduce physical activity in your daily routine.
  • Reduce time spent in front of the TV or on the computer. Always have in mind that it is your responsibility to be a good role model for your child. Lifestyle changes may be hard but if the whole family collaborates, the chances of success multiply.


Nowadays, children spend considerable time watching TV, using the computer or playing electronic games. These habits can change. Physical activity produces a feeling of physical well-being. Simple changes in a child’s routine that do not require money or a lot of time can easily take place. How? By introducing simple activities that are beneficial for the body, such as:

Walking to and from school or other educational institutes while also avoiding taking the lift;Encouraging your children to be involved in sport from a young age; we do not expect them to become champions from their first steps, but it is good to insist on a weekly schedule of sports so that they feel the benefits of exercise while they are still young;Remaining positive that if you exercise, your children will happily follow your lead;Seizing the opportunity to walk in the park, run, play football, basketball or even tag with your children, while enjoying every minute!