Obese children should keep food diaries say guidelines

Sweet jar
Image caption Keeping tabs on what children eat, and when, could identify bad habits that need addressing

Children who are overweight or obese should be encouraged to keep a food-and-activity diary, say new public health guidelines for England.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence says more needs to be done to tackle child obesity.

It says getting parents and their children to track what they snack on and how much TV they watch could help.

Although rates are levelling off, three in every 10 children aged between two and 15 are overweight or obese.

The guidelines make a raft of recommendations, including greater support from local authorities, but say families are at the heart of managing the issue.

Children from around the age of 12 - depending on their ability - should be encouraged to monitor their eating, physical activity and any sedentary behaviour, say the guidelines.

"For example, encourage them to keep a record of time spent watching television or playing computer games, and what they snack on and when, to identify areas that need addressing," says NICE.

For younger children, parents and carers should keep tabs.

The guidelines also stress the importance of helping parents and carers recognise that their child is overweight.

Life-long changes

A National Opinion Poll involving more than 1,000 parents of children aged between four and seven showed that only 14% of those with an obese child considered that their child was overweight.

Schools already monitor their pupils by measuring and weighing them at around age five when they start primary school and again as they leave at around the age of 11.

NICE says all family members need to be on board, regardless of their own weight, to encourage healthy eating patterns and promote physical exercise - by walking to school, for example.

Prof Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre for Public Health at NICE, said: "We are recommending family-based lifestyle programmes are provided which give tailored advice.

"These programmes will also support parents to identify changes that can be done at home to tackle obesity - and maintained over the long term. Many of them are things we should all be doing anyway, including healthy eating, getting the whole family to be more active and reducing the amount of time spent watching TV and playing computer games.

"Being overweight or obese has a significant impact on a child's quality of life. It can affect their self-esteem and they are more likely to be bullied or stigmatised."

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