A recent survey found the problem of overweight children is especially prevalent in families of double-income working parents because of poor eating habits.
The Formosa Cancer Foundation, with the help of elementary-school nutritionists, conducted a nationwide survey of 490 students and their parents last month.
The survey found that 230 of the students had a body mass index (BMI) at the overweight or obese level.
Among the overweight children, the survey found more than 60 percent prefer eating meat to vegetables and 62.7 percent say their families always have sweetened beverages in the house. Forty-five percent of these families eat out often and only 28 percent of the parents said they would try to get their children to eat more fruit and vegetables when they have meals together, the survey showed.
More than half of the working parents said they wanted to provide guidance for their children on healthy eating habits. However, they are not able to because 42 percent of the overweight respondents said their parents usually get home after 7pm, while 35 percent said their parents work overtime two or more nights per week.
In the families of overweight children, 51 percent of the parents allow their children to eat snacks before meals and 47 percent allow the children to choose their own meals when eating out.
This could be due to working parents having meals later in the evening compared with other families, the foundation said.
Tsai Li-chuan (蔡麗娟), vice executive officer of the foundation, said children becoming overweight is likely due to parents being too busy with work, not being well-informed about good nutrition and being too lax when it comes to giving guidance on healthy eating.
Foundation chief executive Lai Gi-ming (賴基銘) said that 20 percent to 30 percent of overweight children will grow up to become overweight adults, and that 50 to 60 percent of overweight youths will continue to be overweight into adulthood.
Overweight children have a two to three times higher risk of developing illnesses linked to high blood pressure and high blood sugar, he said, while girls have four times the rate of breast cancer as adults and boys have greater risk of colon cancer when they are adults.
Nutritionist Lai Yi-chun (賴怡君) said growing children have different calorie requirements depending on their daily activity levels.
“Boys from seven to nine years old need 1,800 to 2,100 calories per day, while girls of that age need 1,650 to 1,900 calories. Boys aged 10 to 12 years old need 2,050 to 2,350 calories per day, while girls of that age need 1,950 to 2,250 calories. Children with low daily activity levels can follow lower calorie limits,” she said.