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Obesity: UK


What is obesity and why is it a problem?

Obesity is a heavy accumulation of fat in the body's fat cells to such a serious degree that it rapidly increases the risk of obesity-associated diseases and mortality. One of the main problems is that children are becoming obese. The number of overweight and obese children in the UK has risen steadily over the past 20 years. This is now a major health concern. Schools are seen as being in the front line in the battle against what has been called "the biggest public health threat of the 21st century" - obesity.

Why are more children overweight?

Most children put on excess weight because their lifestyles include an unhealthy diet and a lack of physical activity. It is certainly easier than ever before for children to become overweight. High- calorie foods, such as fast food and confectionery, are easily available, relatively cheap and heavily promoted specifically at children.
Exercise is no longer a regular part of everyone’s day – some children never walk or cycle to school, or play any kind of sport. And it is not unusual for children to spend hours in front of a television or computer. To avoid becoming overweight it is important to eat a healthy diet and do plenty of physical activity.

A healthy well-balanced diet

  • Starchy foods, which are rich in "complex carbohydrates", are bulky relative to the amount of calories they contain. This makes them filling and nutritious. Sources such as bread, potatoes, pasta and rice should provide half the energy in a child’s diet.
  • Instead of high-fat foods like chocolate, biscuits, cakes and crisps, try healthier alternatives such as fresh fruit, crusty bread or crackers.
  • Try to grill or bake foods instead of frying. Burgers, fish fingers and sausages are just as tasty when grilled, but have a lower fat content. Oven chips are lower in fat than fried chips.
  • Avoid fizzy drinks that are high in sugar. Substitute them with fresh juices diluted with water or sugar-free alternatives.
  • A healthy breakfast of a low-sugar cereal (e.g. wholemeal wheat biscuits) with milk, plus a piece of fruit is a good start to the day.
  • Instead of sweets, offer dried fruit or tinned fruit in natural juice. Frozen yoghurt is an alternative to ice cream. Bagels are an alternative to doughnuts.