Childhood obesity "a real problem" in Gloucestershire - find out how to avoid it
WEIGHT matters – and now Gloucestershire families are getting vital healthy eating advice to halt a childhood obesity epidemic from exploding in the county.
The warning signs are there, with a third of children either overweight or obese nationally.
In Gloucestershire, data shows almost nine per cent of children are obese when they start school, and a further 18 per cent of those in Year 6 are also obese.
Problem areas in the country are Gloucester and the Forest of Dean.
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Dr Shona Arora, director of public health in Gloucestershire, said: "Every child is different and children's weight can change over time as they grow.
"But if your child's weight is above the healthy range for their age and height, the best advice is to support them to be active and eat a balanced diet.
"Over time this should help your child reach and maintain a healthier weight for their age.
"Children learn by example, so one of the best ways to teach your children to eat well and get active is to get the whole family involved.
"Eating regular meals, together and without distractions, like TV is a great first step."
Evidence shows overweight children are more likely to grow up into overweight adults, who face all the health problems that carrying excess weight can bring.
High blood pressure, Type II diabetes, an increased risk of heart disease and some types of cancer are all more prevalent in those overweight.
Overweight children are also more likely to experience problems with their emotional wellbeing.
Parents are encouraged to try and cook for themselves, rather than relying on ready-made meals, to help lower the fat and sugar content of family meals.
Other advice includes swapping high sugar snacks, like cakes and fizzy drinks for healthier alternatives, like fruit.
The advice is given out on courses for children's centre staff and families through Henry – which stands for Health Eating and Nutrition in the Really Young.
Gerry O'Brien, health improvement practitioner and local Henry trainer, said health experts are focusing on getting the healthy eating message across early.
"We have also been part of a pilot scheme called eat better, start better in Gloucestershire," she said.
"It is a voluntary food and drink guideline for early years and hope to have the results back at the end of the month.
"We know by encouraging families in early years to give children the right nutrients in early years can help them to maintain a healthy weight.
"A lot of habits and behaviour are laid down in early years. This is the time when they have a lasting impact.
"Parents are also motivated to give their children the best start in life, and more likely to improve their own eating habits."
You can find further information and advice on eating healthily and getting active at www.nhs.uk/ change4life.