Abu Dhabi: We should listen to our children and empower them, said Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, on Sunday.

She was speaking to seventh grade schoolchildren from Abu Dhabi International School regarding diabetes and healthy eating at the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC) in Abu Dhabi.

Students were encouraged to ask the Duchess questions about healthy eating. The Duchess, in the meantime, was familiarising herself with their lifestyles by asking a number of questions.

These included: "What should you give your friend as a birthday present?" (answer: a basketball). "Is exercise part of your curriculum? How many of you have eaten breakfast this morning?"

No excuse

She emphasised the importance of eating breakfast which results in better performance at school and overall improved health.

"There is no excuse for children to miss breakfast. I am currently involved in promoting a well-balanced healthy way of living for families in the UK who are on the poverty line. I was inspired when I stumbled upon a family with six children. I created a nutrition basket which costs Dh560 a week and contains all the necessary food children may need," she said.

Educating youngsters on living a healthy lifestyle is vital. Sometimes children end up bringing that sort of education home with them and can educate their own parents. This involves learning to listen to children as well as trying to teach them.

"I think we have to change the idea that parents are the sole educators at home. This requires a spin of change by learning to listen to our kids and giving them more empowerment, what I call child power," she said.

She talked about children who binge on food due to stress or children who do not eat at all, what she described as "no love, no food." In addition, eating habits are habitual and stem from the minute a child is born to when they feed on milk, to what kind of food their parents give them.

When asked her advice on obesity among children she said: "I consider the word 'obese' a negative connotation altogether and feel that weight problems stem from that word. It's a fast food generation for children; we should focus more on drawing their attention to living a healthier lifestyle."

"I share a huge amount of passion for children who do not have enough food to eat. I listen to my children as well as have them listen to me, that's my main empowerment in this cause."

It is her first visit to the UAE; her next appearance will be at the Women's Global Conference in Dubai.

Do you know a child who suffers from diabetes? How successful do you think increased awareness among children would be in reducing the number of who suffer from this disease?

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