Beware of Childhood Obesity
Parents and Grandparents are the Key!
As seen in LIVING WELL Magazine
One out of four kindergarteners is overweight in America. A balanced diet and being physically active help children: grow properly, learn and excel in school, and build strong bones and muscles. Furthermore, it helps children have controlled energy, maintain a healthy weight, and avoid weight-related diseases like type 2 diabetes, sleep disorders, and high blood pressure. Plus, a balanced diet and physical activity help children get plenty of nutrients to strengthen their immune system and avoid illness, and feel good about themselves.
Specific goals that are advised by national healthcare guidelines include five servings (½ a cup each) of fruits and vegetables each day, two hours or less of screen time (TV, computer, video games) per day, and one hour of physical activity per day. Further guidelines include zero sugar sweetened beverages, nine hours of sleep each night, and remove TV and computer from the child’s bedroom. Plus, it is advised to eat breakfast daily, limit eating out (especially at fast-food restaurants), have regular family meals together, and limit portion sizes.
Parents need to be role models for their children because nutrition and physical activity are a family issue, not only a child’s. For example, parents are responsible for what food is available in the house and what food is offered at meals. One major common barrier is when a parent or grandparent shows “love” with extra food or treats. This defeats mentoring.
First, we as parents need to recognize when our child’s weight is becoming a problem. Review the cdc.gov website for height and growth charts. Second, we need to understand the physical and psychological effects of obesity for children. Third, we need to realize the health implications.
Set specific ideas for making changes as a family in nutrition and exercise. Small steps do make a life-long difference. Change specific behaviors, such as turning the TV off at meal time. Next, identify barriers and helpful strategies. Get grandparents involved. Check out physical activity programs or gyms in the local community.
What make programs ideal are ones that are close to home, free or low-cost, and provide activities for the whole family. Also, ideal programs have childcare available for younger children, accommodate schedules of working parents, and have flexible times for enrollment/participation. Suggestions for increasing activities at home could be that children take a walk with their family after supper, play with their pet outdoors, play tag, take a bike ride, turn on music and dance, jump rope, play Frisbee, take the stairs, and park the car at the end of the parking lot. Use a pedometer to track the level of activity and make it a family competition. Choose toys and games that promote physical activity. Make physical activity a daily routine.
For encouraging healthy nutrition keep a bowl of fresh fruits on the counter. Refrigerate cut up fruits and vegetables in small bags for easy snacks. Serve fruits and vegetables at every meal. Top off cereal with fruits. Add frozen fruits to smoothies. Set a good example. Snack on fruit. Let children choose which fruits and vegetables to serve and how to incorporate them into their favorite meals. Make fruits and vegetables fun. Try dressing up sandwiches with faces and smiles made from fruit and vegetables. Popcorn makes a great high fiber snack. Find what works for your family.
Resources for more information are:
Find local resources such as the YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, parks and recreation centers, schools, churches, and hospital-supported weight-management programs that offer great support.
The key is the parent in making physical activity and healthy eating fun and positive. This is critical for weight management early on and life-long. Make gradual changes over time and children adapt well.