It is no secret that America has a childhood obesity epidemic, approximately one third of children in the United States are overweight or obese. Making health a priority and putting major efforts towards nutrition and activity early on in a child’s life is essential. Incorporating daily exercise and awareness of their nutritional habits while eating a diet that does not contain many processed foods, rather focusing on incorporating a diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits, high quality protein and healthy fats will reduce their risk of becoming obese and overweight later on in life. Living a healthy lifestyle will more importantly reduce their risk for developing obesity related diseases, like Type 2 Diabetes, Hypertension, or Heart Disease.
*One important thing to remember is the best guidance is through example, the parents have to lead by example not verbal authority. Practice what you preach. Children are the best observers and they can spot a hypocrite. The “do as I say not as I do” is no way to inspire a child to be active and eat healthy foods. Make small lifestyle changes with your children. Regular park trips or walks for exercise, and counting fruit and vegetables servings daily are two simple things to do to get started.
Limit sodas and other sugary/salty/processed treats, to specific times. First, educate your children about the downfalls of eating and drinking too much sugar, or sugary products. Talk about rotting teeth, tummy aches and gaining too much body fat. Then, move on to limiting their soda/juice intake, or any other sugary product that they love, to specific times (ie. Like after practice or lessons on Saturdays for lunch). If you do away with soda and sugar all together, chances are your children will be unhappy and quite upset, this keeps it special and will create realistic boundaries.
By allowing sugary treats only during special times, your children won’t feel like you’re punishing them, and they’ll realize that they don’t need to consume their favorite sugary treats all the time. Plan out a trip to a local bakery, ice cream shop or better yet make some treats with them in your own kitchen. Keep in mind, that moderation is the key to a healthy lifestyle, so don’t begin by cutting out sugars all together.
Plan and cook healthy meals/snacks together as a family
Children love hands on activities, if they help prepare it they are more likely to eat it. What better way to get your children interested in eating healthy foods than by involving them in cooking healthy meals? Depending on the age of your children, the level of help they can offer will vary. Start by getting them to contribute to your shopping list, have them set the table, mix ingredients, etc. Teaching your children to prepare healthy meals also gets them involved in grocery shopping. Take your children to the store with you. There are many different ways of involving children of all ages in the process of planning and making a healthy meal.
Best of all, spending time together as a family is priceless, memories are never built behind a computer or television. Studies have shown that families who eat meals together are much closer. Planning, preparing and enjoying a family meal together are wonderful ways to not only promote children’s health, but also family harmony.
Get involved in exercise
Eating healthy is over 70% of results when it comes to overall health, but being active is another important part of being healthy. Getting children involved in sports, or other extracurricular activities is a fun way to get kids to enjoy exercise. If your children see that exercise is in your daily routine and it can be fun, they will look forward to the gym trips or local races. Plus, training sessions of walk-running outside at a local park or in the neighborhood beats TV, video game or computer time any day!
Pack Lunches and Snacks for school, etc.
Despite the fact that schools are trying to be more conscientious about the lunch options they offer children throughout the day, children are still able to pick and choose from different school lunch options. Let’s be honest, most children are going to choose the greasy “fast food” meal over the healthy one. In order to make sure that your child is receiving a healthy lunch, pack lunch everyday instead of buying it, this ensures that they are getting a balanced meal. Feel free to involve your child in the process of packing lunch and have them help out with choosing more healthy options. Send a water bottle instead of sugary juice or soda, and fresh fruit over processed snacks. By involving children in selecting healthy food and lifestyle options, your efforts will have a lasting impact!
This is a preview to an article that will be featured in Suburban Family Magazine. Check back for the full article.
Dr. Kantor’s greatly anticipated new children’s book, The Green Box League of Nutritious Justice, is now available. Be sure to order this highly reviewed book, filled with healthy living tips for the whole family. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Children’s Miracle Network.