In the past decade we have been waging a war on childhood obesity.
We may have won a few battles, but all of our kids are not yet winning.
Did you know that today 1 in 3 of our children is obese?
Not only are kids with obesity put on a path to chronic disease as adults by obesity, but they are actually suffering from adult diseases as kids. High blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease are striking kids early in their lives.
Obesity can also negatively impact sleep, which can make kids feel unwell and contribute to poor school performance.
Growing up is hard enough on its own without having to worry about managing a serious disease.
And that is just the physical problem. What about the psychological impact that obesity has on our kids who may be bullied or ostracized because of their weight.
Obesity can be overcome or, better yet, prevented.
Families Overcome Obesity Together
Helping children fight obesity will require the efforts of everyone in the family.
A team approach to getting more physical activity each day and making small changes in the way you eat to achieve a healthy outcome for everyone in the family will take thought and commitment.
You can do it!
Here are some things you can do to achieve health:
- Remove sweetened drinks from the fridge. Keep water on hand for between meal thirst or during physical activity. Make low fat milk part of the meal.
- Keep fruit on the counter for quick snacks so kids aren’t grabbing unhealthy snacks.
- Plan and prep your weekday meals on the weekend to help avoid last minute drive thru trips. Make it a family activity. Get the kids in the kitchen to help plan a menu, wash the produce, or other tasks that contribute to meal time. Also pack up snacks into individual servings so they can grab and go without overindulging.
- Take a walk after dinner as a family.
- Put down the technology devices and pursue a physical activity together, such as badminton, frisbee, bowling, hiking, swimming, or biking. Alternate picking the activity so everyone gets a chance to do something they enjoy. Shoot for 60 minutes of movement each day. This will work even better if you set limits on screen time. You can use this screen time log to help manage technology.
- Read food labels to help you buy healthier foods with no added sugar, lower saturated fat, and reduced sodium. Keep foods out of the house to reduce temptation that may be an occasional treat instead of an everyday healthy snack to make it easier to pick health.
- Grow a backyard or patio garden to encourage fresh foods and new recipes.
- Let your kids pick new foods at the grocery store (healthy ones of course!) and try it out in using a recipe. Experimenting with new foods will broaden their palate and acceptance with healthier foods.
- Together learn about portions. Learn about how much everyone needs, what that looks like on the plate and practice portion control together.
- Include all foods in your meals, eat a rainbow for optimal nutrition, and don’t skip meals so that balance, calorie control, and nutritional density can be achieved.
- Make family meals fun by talking, sharing the events of the day, pass on traditions, and remove distractions so everyone engages in the conversation.
- Use non-food rewards for performance, such as good school work and behavior, completing chores or minding their manners. Do the same for school treats, sports team snacks and after school by picking not just health foods but other treats.
- Know what your kids are eating when they are away from home.
- Take a nutrition class and learn more about healthy eating.
Real Worries for Parents
Childhood obesity has become the number one health concern for parents, outpacing smoking and drugs!
In fact, Surgeon General Richard Carmona characterized the threat from childhood obesity as follows:
“Because of the increasing rates of obesity, unhealthy eating habits and physical inactivity, we may see the first generation that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.”
Reducing childhood obesity should not be done quickly, instead a gradual change should be the goal. Short term lifestyle changes that are achievable and sustainable will be the key to success for families and children.
If you aren’t sure if your child falls into the range of obesity, you can use this BMI (body mass index) calculator for children and teens if you know your child’s height and weight.
Parents need to be healthy role models and practice what they preach instead of contributing to obesity by inactivity or poor food choices.
Teamwork can achieve healthy lifestyle changes for kids (and families!).