Childhood Obesity Nigeria
Obesity. It is something we see every day and in some ways, we have come to even accept as part of the full-figured African structure. While it is definitely possible to be full figured and not obese, a lot of us do not know the difference. It is important that this distinction is made as Obesity comes with a plethora of diseases which can be life-threatening.

There are several targeted campain by a lot of companies that sell unhealthy food products and one must be alert to them.

Even for those that try to eat healthily, there are all sorts of ways that companies try to draw one in. I wrote a post about how multinational companies target not only adults, but particularly children. Please take a minute (actually more like an hour) to watch Globesity. It is well worth your time. You will see how these companies that also have in presence in Nigeria have aggressively targeted children. Once they are able to get them on sweet, fatty food products, that journey is usually for life. Can you imagine exposing your kids or loved ones to something that will keep them struggling for years?

Childhood Obesity Healthy eating

Which one would your child choose? Which one would you like him/her to choose?

If you think that this struggle is not real, cast your mind to the Keto (Ketogenic Diet) industry and how well it is doing in Nigeria. It is a very popular diet that has apparently yielded a lot of results. It is very indicative of how many adults are struggling with their weight. If you can save your children a life of dieting later on in their lives, wouldn’t you?

Keto Food

Source

Overweight children are more prone to becoming overweight adults. And they are a bit more helpless than adults when it comes to dealing with the fall out of being overweight. Adults get the warning signs – high blood pressure and heart problems for example – and immediately go on a diet and eating healthier foods for then on. But it may be harder as children are a whole kettle of fish altogether.

The average boy and girl have a sweet tooth and a healthy appetite. We know what their pocket money is mostly spent on: Sweets of any kind – both local and foreign – snacks like puff-puff and sugar-coated doughnuts. And there are the inevitable ice creams, sodas, creamy drinks like flavoured milk and flavoured yogurt, etc.

 

While in this post, I am highlighting what happens when there is a power outage, this is still very much the case in Lagos. A lot of children do not get home-cooked meals but rely on food vendors who use a lot of seasoning cubes, receycled cooking oil and even spoilt tomatoes in their cooking. 

Other kids go for the fattening street food- fried yams, puff- puff, deep fried fish, and akara. Add snacks and the food put in their lunch packs/buy from school food vendors with what they are fed at home every day, these kids begin bursting out of their clothes. Ditto for the adults, they can’t avoid the Bukas where there are fat and fatty meat in the soup, alcohol in beer parlours, junk food at the fast food places, the heavy food at home. In no time, they may develop life-threatening ailments like diabetes, hypertension and breathing problems.

It’s definitely a prevailing problem in the country. And it starts with the parents. While parents naturally want their children to be well fed, they have to start considering the type of food they serve them. Which foods should be eaten in moderation (yam, rice), which should be eaten more (vegetables, fruit, natural juice), which has far too much carbs (fufu, pounded yam) , saturated fat (fatty meat, deep fried chicken), sodium  and high sugar content (Instant Noodles, Ketchup and even Peanut Butter) and what sort of food shouldn’t be combined (pasta and rice eaten together).

Go through all that, make some changes and obesity in kids will gradually reduce. Parents too should set a good example for their kids by eating healthy foods and coach the kids on what is good for them and what’s bad, explaining why in detail. Discourage the sweets, minerals and fatty street food and put healthier options in the school lunch packs.

But it doesn’t mean the government can’t play its role to curb child obesity. If a country like Chile can successfully do it, so can Nigeria.

JUNK FOOD ADVERTISEMENT AIMED AT CHILDREN

Chile, believe it or not, has the world’s largest population of obese children. According to its Ministry of Health, one-half of Chilean kids are overweight and sadly, obesity is a factor in one out of every 11 deaths. And because of that, the Chilean government has been very Since 2012, its government laid down the law real hard on food companies who sell their stuff via commercial hooks (commercial hooks are like getting free stuff, like toys, bundled in with the core product the company is trying to sell).

Who wouldn’t buy a product with the promise of getting something free with it? Look at Kellogg’s cereals for example. Has anyone noticed the ‘free’ stuff labels are usually in the sweetest varieties- Crunchy Nut, Frosties, Coco Pops? More than enough to encourage buyers to buy them for their kids. The kids get the free toys and they get to eat a high sugar cereal.

HOW THE GOVERNMENT OF CHILE DEALT WITH CHILDHOOD OBESITY

In Chile, the government have played a huge role in putting the kibosh on such things. The law is simple: Companies cannot promote food items high in sugar or fats with commercial hooks.

The well-known chocolate egg, Kinder Surprise (which is high in sugar) has been banned in Chile. This was especially targeted because they are sold with free toys inside them – tiny toy cars, figurines, accessories and so on- enough to lure more buyers. For sure, children want to add to their collection, hence more Kinder Eggs are bought. More toys but more sugar is consumed.

Childhood Obesity Nigeria

Source – The Toys in Kiddie meals are commercial hooks

Also banned were the free toys placed in packaged child meals, McDonald’s ‘Happy Meal’ one of them. The ‘Happy Meal’ items are high in fat and salt- French fries, Chicken McNuggets (battered and deep-fried processed chicken), a Hamburger or a Cheese Burger. But McDonald’s managed to save its skin. Before the ban actually went to effect, the food chain immediately reduced unhealthy ingredients in their food- sugar, excessive salt and saturated fat and placed healthier food in the ‘Happy Meal’ packs, so as to be allowed to sell them, with the free toy in the packs. If food companies still want to keep the free toys in their child packs, the food itself must comply with the law.

LABELLING FOOD PRODUCTS TO CURTAIL OBESITY

Chile passed a law where foods high in salt, sugar, saturated fats and calories must be clearly identified with STOP signs according to a strict code. They went one much-needed step further: such food must not be sold in schools or advertised to children younger than 14. Labels are placed on food products that contain high sodium, saturated fat, and sugar to warn buyers of the risk they are taking.

Natural Nigerian Child Obesity

Source: Please click on the link to read the NPR report on Chile’s successful campaign against Child Obesity

This labelling has been very helpful as parents go shopping now with an aim to avoid buying anything that has the black labels on it. They do not need t0 understand the nitty gritty of the labeling information but they know that anything that has been black labelled means that they are exposing their children to foods that cause obesity.

Makes you wonder how the Nigerian Ministry of Health can go about curbing child obesity in our own country. 12% of Nigerian children are obese and overweight, the quantity and quality of the food they eat and lack of enough exercise! We need a law like Chile’s, no doubt.

WHICH WAY NIGERIA?

The ban on foreign food high in fat, sugar, and sodium will be hard to implement because one way or the other, people will still find a way of bringing them in. But a law dictating the level of sodium fat and sugar in our local products might work. Any food company not following the law can simply be banned from distribution until it complies. Food chains like Mr Biggs’, Domino’s or KFC should be ordered by the Ministry of Health to reduce the fat, sugar and salt in their food and offer healthier drink options like fruit smoothies with no added sugar; or face the risk of being shut down for a long time.

While this may be seen as being a huge nuisance for the companies involved, it is totally do-able as described in this post I did a few years ago where I show the difference between the Nigerian KFC and KFC in the UK. Same company. One has just bowed to pressure from the market.

Products that simply have no nutritional value should be banned completely, for example the highly coloured and over sweet iced lolly school children like so much. Sodas should also not be marketed to children.

Let’s also talk about what we eat in our homes. How many of our local dishes don’t make us gain weight? Or so we think. For over a year now, 9jafoodie has been helping people lose weight by using her Lose It Nigeria (LIN) diet. This is proof that you can eat a wholesome Nigerian diet and not gain weight.

Don’t have time to cook for your children? It is easier now to pass on that task to someone else. Nosh’N’nibble has a fantastic program where you can order bespoke healthy meals for your child and they will even deliver straight to their schools.

Looking for healthy lunch options for your kids? @noshnnibble can even deliver directly to your kid's schools during lunch time. Cool right? 😎 Do you have a picky eater? There are options to choose from so that you can satisfy even your picky eater. You can order directly from their website or call their numbers (details on the poster). Repost from @noshnnibble Mums love our School Lunchbox for all the right reasons💕 (and Dads too 🙂). Everyone of our lunchbox has something nutritious and yummy 😋from each of the 5 food groups! 1. Protein for growth ☑ 2. Grains for fibre ☑ 3. Vegetables for vitamins & minerals, plus additional fibre ☑ 4. Fruits for additional vitamins, minerals & fibre (excellent palate cleanser, by the way) ☑ 5. Dairy for strong healthy bones ☑ We deliver directly to your child at school at lunch time. You may order daily or weekly. To be eligible for a 2-10% discount, order per term or for the entire school year! #lunchbox. #schoollunchbox. #lunchtime. ##breaktime. #lunchbreak. #healthykids. #foodgroups. #school. #fooddelivery. #meat. #grains. #veggies. #vegetables. #fruits. #dairy. #NoshnNibble. #lovefood. Order through our website: www.NoshnNibble.com or Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1009239632542302&tsid=0.3422962417836215&source=typeahead or call us on 0809 777 3330; 0809 777 3331.

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The government can also help by having the Ministry of Health increase public awareness about obesity, its effects on children and adults, what foods can be taken in moderation and what should be avoided.

This can be done via conferences, documentaries seminars, in the Health column of our newspapers and of course social media. Health talks by hospitals should be made mandatory; at least once every month, where people can be made more aware of obesity and given a weight loss food schedules to help children and adults to lose weight.

Parents can also expand their knowledge of these matters and introduce them at home.

Physical activity

Child Obesity in Nigeria

It was reported that some Nigerian schools have not been complying with stipulated standards in students’ physical activity. That can change if the Federal Government enforces Physical Education more in Schools, in theory and practice. Children will be able to burn fat if they spend at least an hour getting a good workout, supervised by the coach.

Parents should make the children exercise at home, instead of sitting for hours in front of the television- go for a walk or have a game of football in the compound. 

Plus, the Federal Government can issue a strict instruction to all schools to check the sort of food and snacks being allowed to be sold by vendors in the school premises, eliminating the ‘no-no’s’.

Let’s not forget that charity begins at home. Parents should make the children exercise at home, instead of sitting for hours in front of the television-go for a walk or have a game of football in the compound.  Plus, the Federal Government (along with the school PTA) can issue a strict instruction to all schools to check the sort of food and snacks being allowed to be sold by vendors in the school premises, eliminating the ‘no-no’s.

The Federal Government (along with parents) just might be able to eradicate obesity if the ideas mentioned above can be implemented and followed successfully. Once more and more children move to the healthier path, child obesity and obesity, in general, will be a thing of the past.

SOURCES:

Overweight and Obesity: an emerging epidemic in Nigeria- Pharmanews

Obesity, being overweight rising among Nigerian Children- The Vanguard

The Evil Egg: Chile Bans Kinder Surprise- DW

Chile Bans Toys In Children’s Meals to try to fight Obesity- BBC News

Chile Battles Obesity with Stop signs on packaged foods - The Salt

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