Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health

The Role of Parents

China - mother and son
WHO/Pierre Virot

The promotion of healthy diets and regular, adequate physical activity are major factors in fighting the childhood obesity epidemic.

In making healthy foods and beverages available at home and in providing, supporting and encouraging opportunities for physical activity, parents can influence their children's behavior.

Simultaneously parents are advised to live and promote a healthy lifestyle because children's behavior is often shaped by observation and adaptation.

Suggestions for the promotion of healthy nutrition at home

For infants and young children:

  • breastfed exclusively for the first six months of life;
  • continuously breastfed until 2 years and beyond, complemented with a variety of adequate, safe and nutritient dense complementary foods;
  • avoid the use of added sugars and starches when feeding formula;
  • accept the child’s ability to regulate energy intake rather than feeding until the plate is empty;
  • assure the appropriate micronutrient intake needed to promote optimal linear growth.

For children and adolescents:

  • provide healthy breakfast before each school day;
  • serve healthy school snacks to children (whole-grain, vegetables, fruits);
  • promote intake of fruits and vegetables;
  • restrict intake of energy-dense, micronutrient-poor foods (e.g. packaged snacks);
  • restrict intake of sugars-sweetened soft drinks;
  • ensure opportunity for family meals;
  • limit exposure to marketing practices (e.g. limit television-viewing);
  • teach children to resist temptation and marketing strategies;
  • provide information and skills to make healthy food choices.

Suggestions for the promotion of physical activity at home

  • reduce non-active time (e.g. television viewing, computer);
  • encourage safe walking/bicycling to school and to other social activities;
  • make physical activity part of the family’s daily routine such as designating time for family walks or playing active games together;
  • ensure that the activity is age appropriate and provide protective equipment such as helmets, wrist pads, and knee pads.