Childhood obesity is epidemic and a concern to many parents in the US because of what it means to health and well being now and in the future. Are you among those parents?
Parents are not the only ones who have become active participants in helping our children become healthier and staying healthy throughout their lifetimes.
The US government and those at all levels – local, state and federal – as well as various health organizations have initiated programs, including new USDA regulations in school foodservice for meals and vending, Let’s Move, Fuel up for 60, tighter control of marketing strategies aimed toward children, nutrition education, farm to table programs, school gardens, community playgrounds, increased accessibility to healthy foods, afterschool programs, and many more strategies which impact nutrition and health.
Simultaneously, steps are being taken globally to improve the health of the world’s children, including initiatives by the World Health Organization on behalf of the estimated 170 million children worldwide who are overweight.
Struggling with obesity used to be a disease limited to the wealthiest countries, like the US, but now the prevalence of obesity is rising throughout the world. It is now considered the most serious public health challenge of this century.
What Parents Can Do
Obesity in our children does not have one specific cause and therefore can not be resolved with one particular change.
Childhood obesity is triggered by a complex set of factors which include diet, eating habits, physical activity, economics, environment, genetics, nutrition knowledge, home cooking techniques, food deserts, and available community resources.
What we do know is that the consequences of childhood obesity are real. Overweight children are at substantially greater risk of poor health outcomes, including chronic diseases and mortality. Here are some strategies your family can implement to improve the health of your children.
- Learn about ways to power up the nutrition in your family meals. Include fresh fruits and vegetables at each meal, use low fat dairy, serve whole wheat breads and rolls, and serve lean proteins. Use healthy cooking techniques to get the fat out and keep in the flavor.
- Try to eliminate sugar sweetened beverages from their world, whether at school, home, restaurants or family events. Drinking water should be a first choice between meals to quench thirst and low fat milk or 100% juice at meals.
- Reduce all foods with added sugars. Read the ingredient label looking for added sugar not just amount of sugars (milk and yogurt will have natural sugar so don’t mistake that for added sugar). You might want to check our one of our earlier articles on Understanding Food Labels.
- Send nutritious lunches to school or work together on school food choices so that they are getting a good balanced meal each day.
- Be the boss and role model — walk the talk! Let them learn good eating and physical activity habits from you! Be a family that eats together preferably at the table where good habits can be born.
- Make it a part of each day to get physical. Playing outside, playing on sports teams and being active as a family every day is vital to good health. Let them pick an adventure and plan for outside activities. If you don’t have a park nearby, find ways to get moving.
- Limit TV time and video game playing in favor of physical stimulation. There are a lot of fun video games that include physical activity, many you can do together for added benefit.
- Use MyPlate as a guide for portion control and meal servings that are appropriate for each member of the family. Eating a rainbow of foods in the amounts needed for good health without excess will help everyone!
- Grow your own! Plant a garden whether in the yard or on the patio to involve the kids and help them understand the importance of fresh food. They will enjoy planning what to plant and keeping the garden growing all the way through to making the meal with your bounty!
- Help them get enough sleep. Getting adequate rest to recover from all the playtime is important to good health too.
In order to raise a healthy child, we as parents should take the lead and make it a family affair. Live good health every day inside the home as well as outside.
Your actions speak louder than words.
Childhood obesity rates remain steady for older children but the good news is that they are beginning to show some positive decreases in preschool age children. It is not too late for your child — whatever their age — to get healthy for life with your help!