I interviewed Dr. Samina Ajmal from Zulekha Hospital, Dubai. We discussed Obesity; THE BANE OF THE DEVELOPED WORLD- is spreading its tentacles among the young in the UAE too. Dr. Samina Ajmal explains how I can be tackled.
Maria: What are the major concerns regarding eating patterns of children in the U.A.E?
Dr. Samina: I have worked with children for about 12 years now. In the U.A.E, I feel the eating habits of children are particularly distorted because parents are hard-pressed for time especially if both of them are working. Due to this, it becomes common practice to eat out and the main emphasis is on junk food.
Children get into the habit of eating while on the go and snacking from an early age. They lack balanced nutrition. Hence they start to develop health problems like obesity, iron deficiency, constipation and other nutritional deficiencies.
Maria: At what age should a child be allowed to make his own food choices and how should this transition be achieved?
Dr. Samina: A child can be taught to take his/her food any time after the age of four. In fact, by encouraging this practice parents can gradually guide the child into a lifelong habit of eating healthy foods. Moreover, it adds an element of adventure to the monotonous process of eating (regular food items) for the child.
Practice food democracy. Let your kid include his choice of vegetables or fruit in the dinner menu. He will feel respected. Also, teach children how to make meals more nutritious.
Make subtle changes. Don't forcibly exercise control over the dietary habits of your child. Setting rigid rules, like banning ice cream, often backfires because children in such cases tend to indulge in these food items when they re at a party or at a friend's house.