Parents in Ireland have been advised not to order from children's menus when out for family meals to prevent their kids from becoming obese.

With Ireland's childhood obesity levels continuing to soar to worryingly high levels, health experts have called on restaurant owners to give kids access to more healthy options when dining out.

Obesity watchdogs say they're concerned that standard kids' menus at many eateries across the country are still dominated by calorie-laden meals like chicken nuggets and chips, pizzas and cheeseburgers.

Dr. Marian O'Reilly, chief specialist in Nutrition at Safefood Ireland, said, "I'd encourage parents to ask for half portions from the adult menu when they're ordering for their children.

"Irish people can be very bad at speaking up when they go out, but people shouldn't feel obliged to order from the children's menu.  Kids don't have to eat sausages and burgers when they're out for a meal, and restaurants should have no problem in providing child-size portions of their main meal options.

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"I do accept that on the continent it's culturally more acceptable for families to go out together for a meal than it is here and that you're more likely to see children eating what their parents are eating.

"But there's no reason that can't happen over here, too.  We're all different types of eaters, but children will copy us.  So if they see us eating vegetables, then they're more likely to do so, too."

According to Safefood Ireland, one in four children in Ireland are overweight or obese, with bad food choices the main factor behind the obesity epidemic.

But introducing other straightforward measures, like conducting a health check of the weekly food shopping, could quickly help to reverse the alarming trend.

At present Irish families spend about 20 percent of the household budget on treat foods, whereas only seven percent is spent on vegetables.

Parents have also been advised to ban laptops and phones from their kids' bedrooms to ensure their kids stay healthy and don't pile on the pounds.

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Past studies have found that bedrooms need to be pitch-black when people fall asleep for their metabolism to function properly, as light from computer screens can harm the production of the melatonin hormone and prevent the body from processing food efficiently.

Further research has found that sleep deprivation is likely to trigger increased levels of a hunger hormone called ghrelin and decreased levels of the fullness hormone called leptin, which could lead to overeating and weight gain.

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