What is obesity?

Obesity is a disease. It refers to a high proportion of body fat in various regions of the body, for example, in the internal organs or beneath the skin. This increased fat accumulation can damage the human organism and lead to diabetes and other health risks. Early signs of these consequential problems, such as calcification of blood vessels (arteriosclerosis), can already be identified at childhood. It is also commonly known as morbid obesity.

Who can I contact if my child and I are searching for professional help regarding obesity?

In this case there is an interdisciplinary team in Salzburg that is built on 25 years of experience. Assistance is directed at families with overweight toddlers/children, as well as extremely overweight adolescents until the age of 18. More information at www.gewichtig.at.

Are there recommendations for healthy physical activity?

The Austrian recommendations for health enhancing physical activity (Titze et al., 2012; Wissen, Bd. 8, Fonds Gesundes Österreich, Wien) state in agreement with international guidelines: in order to prevent physical and mental illness, children should move at least one hour per day in a way that they get out of breath but can still talk at the same time. In doing so large muscle groups (legs, trunk) should be used. Additionally, during at least three days per week, games and forms of exercise that strengthen the skeletal muscles and bones are recommended. A continuous sitting time of more than 20 minutes should be implicitly avoided.

Are there any kinds of sports which a child should not be doing?

If a child does not have any pathological changes in their locomotor system and is organically healthy, there is no type of sport that could not be recommended. This also goes for overweight children.

The most important principle when choosing a sport: child-oriented = considering the child's motoric development and arousing curiosity.

Are there any recommendations for healthy nutrition?

The working group for obesity in children and adolescents (Arbeitsgruppe für Adipositas im Kindes- und Jugendalter AGA, 2012) recommends  a seasonally and regionally diversified diet for children, adapted in portion size with regard to the development of the child (a pediatrician can give further information).

The meals should be comprised of primarily carbohydrates (55% of energy supply in the form of complex carbs, e.g. whole grain foods, potatoes, etc.), as well as essential proteins (10-15% of energy supply; portions of fish/poultry/meat or legumes should be the size of a child's hand) and fats (30% sourced from vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and fish to satisfy the needs of mono-/poly- unsaturated fats). Fatty and sugar-rich foods (sweets, pastries, chips, etc.,) should only be available in small portions once per day (and only if specifically requested by the child). Liquids should always be close at hand; in particular, water or unsweetened teas should be offered.

The energy supply should be divided into five meals (three main meals, two snacks); the mealtime schedule varies culturally. It is advised to have at least one common family meal.

How can fruits and vegetables be made tasty (for children)?

The concept of the term "healthy" is not easily comprehended by children and often has a negative connotation at an early age. Furthermore experimental studies have shown that food needs to be offered repeatedly (8-13 times) to be liked by children. Fruits and vegetables should be cut into pieces (if possible children can help with cutting and serving). It can be helpful to cut amusing forms with cookie cutters or to compose forms and faces with pieces of fruits and vegetables. Sweet vegetables (corn, peas, pumpkin, etc.) can lead to a first success, also avoid particularly sour fruits (e.g. better strawberries than raspberries)

How can I influence the amount of my child's drinking?

Children who don't like to drink much can be encouraged in a playful way to drink more with colourful cups, straws etc. A drinking bottle that children consider fun or "cool" also can increase the attraction of drinking. "Magic gemstones" in a water jug, frozen berries in ice cubes or eatable flowers in the drinking glass can encourage children to drink. If a child will drink only juice the amount of juice should slowly be reduced by diluting it with water with the goal of eventually replacing the juice with water.

Did you know...

...that children seldom outgrow "puppy fat"? Most overweight children also become overweight adolescents and adults.

...many kindergartens already implement healthy nutrition and physical activity at their institutions? Precisely because of this fact they are the ideal partners for SALTO.

...that children often model themselves on parents regarding nutrition and physical activity? This is why SALTO is also particularly addressing parents.

... that already every second to third child is overweight? Consequently, it is about time to counteract this trend with SALTO.