Eating as a family has many benefits, including the prevention of obesity and other diseases. Do you know why? Take note!



There is a false belief that processed foods, with fats and sugars, are the only things responsible for the obesity which is shockingly spreading around the developed world. In fact, 25% of the Spanish population suffers from obesity today, a figure which increases to 32% in children aged between 7 and 13, according to the 19th World Congress of the International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders (IFSO) and the 21st Congress of the Spanish Society of Surgery for Morbid Obesity and Metabolic Disorders (SECO), which took place in September 2019 in Madrid.

But many nutritionists agree that obesity is more than eating ultra-processed foods, it is a social problem which also involves aspects such as a lack of daily exercise, disorder at mealtimes or watching television while eating, among other factors.

According to dietician-nutritionist, Luján Soler, in an interview for BBVA, “it has been proven that when children eat with their parents, they eat more vegetables or more fruit. It is different eating together to eating while watching the laptop or television, because there is no awareness of the amount and foods we eat”.

25% of the Spanish population suffers from obesity today, a figure which increases to 32% in children aged between 7 and 13

Healthy habits as a family

For a healthy and balanced diet, it is necessary to follow correct food habits: give preference to fresh food rather than processed food, meet the ‘5 a day’ rule (5 pieces of fruit and vegetables), try to fulfil the combination of the ‘Harvard Plate’ which consists of greens (vegetables and leafy vegetables) taking up half of the plate we are preparing for each meal, a quarter of the plate of carbohydrates and another quarter of proteins.

But, aside from the above, leading by example is very important. In other words, if we oblige our children to eat fruit, for example, the first thing we should ask ourselves is if we eat it. And, like fruit, everything else. If we want children to have a balanced diet, it is very important for us to show them the importance of this diet, rich in fruit, vegetables, carbohydrates and high quality proteins. Without this example, it is difficult to argue to a child that they should follow healthy guidelines.

How to create a healthy lifestyle as a family?

As well as a healthy and balanced diet, and ensuring the whole family follow it, there are other factors that can help to create a healthy lifestyle as a family.

1. Going shopping Why not? Many people go to the supermarket and leave children at home. Obviously, it is a question of practicality and convenience, but if we go shopping as a family, we are also teaching them. Children can take part in choosing fruit, looking at the fish, which attracts their attention, learn about the recipes we are going to cook, choose one cut or another depending on what we are going to make for tea, etc. It is a way of involving them in an educational way in cooking and in the daily diet. Without realising, they will learn which foods are best, etc.

2. Store and preserve: closely related with having a healthy diet is the issue of food preservation. Correctly placing products in the fridge, freezer, cupboards, etc. helps to preserve them better and, therefore, they are in the best condition when we are going to use them to eat raw or cook. So, after shopping comes the job of storing and organising. We can also involve children in this process, it is a way of them learning about hygiene habits and care for the foods they are going to eat, and it helps them to have these concepts well established for when they are older.

3. Hand's to work! Once bought and stored, what’s next? We get cooking, according to the plan we have set and we get the children to help us with this task. They will learn how to combine foods, they will be able to do their bit in each recipe and they are bound to enjoy it more when it comes to eating.

4. Time to eat! For the main meals of the day, it is important that children are accompanied. We should try to avoid, as far as possible, using mobile telephones, tablets or any other electronic device. When this happens, for example, there is no awareness of the amount or the foods they have eaten. We feel relaxed, chilled, chatting and chewing properly, as well as learning food and behaviour habits, it boosts parent-child relationships which are so important for their development.

5. Limit physical inactivity: as well as a healthy and balanced diet, moving around is important. The WHO recommends that children between the ages of 5 and 17 do a physical activity, mostly aerobic, for at least 60 minutes each day. For adults, it is recommended that they spend 150 minutes per week, as a minimum, to doing aerobic physical activity, of a moderate intensity, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous activities.

NAOS strategy to combat obesity in Spain

With regard to the comments at the beginning about obesity and with the aim of preventing it, in 2005 Spain formed the NAOS strategy (Strategy for Nutrition, Physical Activity and Prevention of Obesity), under the Ministry of Health, Consumption and Social Welfare. Its main focus for action is to prevent excess weight and obesity, offering solutions for a varied and balanced diet at the same time as promoting physical activity and sport.

The NAOS Strategy involves the creation of an Observatory of Obesity which regularly quantifies and analyses the prevalence of obesity in the Spanish population and measures the progress obtained in the prevention of this disease. It has been formed as an information system to understand the nutritional situation and evolution of obesity of the Spanish population and as a meeting platform between all of the stakeholders involved in which the objectives of the NAOS Strategy converge.