How often do you eat together as a family?

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Did you know that children who eat regular family meals together are more likely to have a lower rate of obesity than those who don’t? Obesity in the UK costs an estimated £6.1 billion each year, with the NHS stating around 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 5 children aged between 10 and 11 are overweight.

It's a common problem in the UK and it's claimed that by 2030 half of the UK could be obese if the trends continue. But what can be done to help those already in the obese category?

We're taking a look at a few steps that could be implemented in order to help prevent these numbers going up even further.

How to measure obesity

The most common way someone is checked to see if they are a healthy weight is to calculate their BMI (Body Mass Index). However, this doesn't mean that a high BMI equals obesity, as those who are muscular can have a high BMI but have little fat.

A guide from the NHS says for most adults, a BMI of:

  • 18.5 to 24.9 means you're a healthy weight
  • 25 to 29.9 means you're overweight
  • 30 to 39.9 means you're obese
  • 40 or above means you're severely obese

Waist size can also help determine a healthy weight. Men with a waist size of 94cm or more and women with a waist size of 80cm or more are more likely to develop obesity-related health problems.

>>Read our blog on Getting back into the outdoors

What are the causes of obesity?

The NHS explains that obesity is caused by a combination of factors that develops over time, and is mainly down to if a poor diet and lifestyle choices are made. 

If you are consuming more calories than you are burning off then it will lead to that excess energy being stored as fat. Factors that can lead to obesity include:

  • eating large amounts of processed or fast food 
  • drinking too much alcohol 
  • eating out a lot
  • eating larger portions than you need
  • drinking too many sugary drinks
  • comfort eating
  • lack of physical activity.

Treating and preventing obesity

There isn’t a quick fix for solving the worldwide issue of obesity in children and adults. Programmes that encourage weight loss are helpful but often take time and require commitment.

Making simple lifestyle changes, monitoring weight regularly and setting realistic goals which involve the whole family can help you and your family to lose weight and maintain a healthier lifestyle.

Losing what can be seen as a small amount of weight i.e. 3% of your original weight and being able to maintain it can help to reduce your risk of obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

Read our top five tips to help combat obesity below for simple lifestyle changes that could help you and your family maintain a healthier weight and lifestyle.   

1. Eat healthy meals together as a family

A study in 2014 found that children who ate regular family meals were more likely to have a lower rate of obesity and ate more nutritiously. 

According to Catherine Rogers, an assistant professor of nutrition at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, there is a 'positive association between frequency of family meals and the consumption of nutritious foods. In addition, a decrease in unhealthy choices like sugar-sweetened beverages and fried foods.'

2. Healthier food choices

Encourage your family to make healthier food choices by reducing the consumption of foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt and increase your family’s consumption of fruit and vegetables.

Try making a healthier version of your favourite dish from your local take away or exchanging sweets for fruit and swapping sugary fizzy drinks for squash or low-calorie and sugar-free alternatives.

3. Using the Eatwell plate as a guide to maintain a balanced diet

The eatwell plate can help you and your family to visualise the different types of food and portions that contribute to a balanced diet. With most of us not eating enough fruit and vegetables, aim to eat at least 5 different portions which should equal to over a third of the food we eat each day.

NHS Eatwell guide

 

4. Reduce your family’s screen times

Limit the length of time each day the whole family is spending sat down by reducing screen times (TV, Internet, video games). 

Try and set up technology-free zones in your house or set times were devices are put away, perhaps at dinner time?

Outside of homework, school-aged kids should spend no more than an hour or two with a screen every day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

5. Be more active as a family

Each family is different, and what works for one but not work for another, but there's a whole host of activities recommended by the NHS for each age group that you could try. 

Babies

Before your baby begins to crawl, encourage them to be physically active (reaching and grasping, pulling and pushing). Once babies can move around, encourage them to be as active as possible in a safe, supervised and nurturing play environment.

Toddlers

Children who can walk on their own should be physically active every day for at least 180 minutes (3 hours). This should be spread throughout the day, indoors or outside.

Under 5's

Children under 5 should not be inactive for long periods, except when they're asleep. Watching TV, travelling by car, bus or train, or being strapped into a buggy for long periods are not good for a child's health and development.

5 to 18-year-olds

At least 60 minutes of physical activity every day is recommended – this should range from moderate activity, such as cycling and playground activities, to vigorous activity, such as running.

Find out more on the NHS' physical activity guidelines.

If you're concerned about your family's weight then seek medical advice, as small changes could make a big difference. 

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