Childhood Obesity can be prevented
Childhood obesity is a very serious concern! It’s no secret that many of the children in America could benefit from more physical activity and a better diet. Our inactive lifestyles and processed food diets are leading to an increase in childhood obesity. In fact, about 1 in 6 children are overweight or obese, putting them at increased risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease later in their lives. This statistic was taken from the CDC website and it provides a pretty dismal outlook, but we can change these statistics by feeding our kids higher quality foods and encouraging more daily movement.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “You can’t exercise off bad food?” Well, I believe this to be true. Diet is a huge part in the childhood obesity problem. The answer is not as simple as increasing exercise. Nor do you want to take away major food groups; putting them on radical diets. Kids obviously have different needs from adults. They need more of everything to put it simply. This includes carbs, fats, fiber, protein, and all the nutrients found in whole foods.
However, we tend to forget that they survive and thrive without candy and toaster pastries. The marketing of highly processed junk food that is aimed to children is disgusting. It makes it very hard for parents who want to feed their kids better. Sometimes it seems like an all out war against people who try. I gave in to the allure of junk food plenty of times; probably too many.
But now that I know better, I try harder to encourage my grown kids to make good choices. I follow an 80-20 rule of thumb. Serve the kids all the good stuff at least 80% of the time and let them choose some “fun” foods 20% of the time; like on special occasions. This is important because if they feel deprived it could backfire with binges as soon as they are out of your sight and control.
What the Experts Say
Experts recommend breast feeding in infancy and for the first six months as one way to start them off on the right track. Introducing cereals and other solid foods too early is not a beneficial thing.
They also recommend they get their carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, and legumes. In addition, grains as tolerated by the child should be whole and not processed (and I personally think organic). When we do this, we are providing a diet that is low in sugar/processed carbs and high in nutrients and fiber.
As mentioned above, diet is critical in the battle against childhood obesity. However, movement is really important as well and without both, weight control is difficult. There are many health benefits to exercising for everyone. I feel like kids were made to be in near constant motion. We have created a culture where playing outdoors doesn’t feel safe anymore. The real entertainment is in front of a screen watching TV or playing video games. Even communication is more digital amongst children with texting and social media. There is not much pushing them outdoors.
Here are some ideas that may inspire more movement at home:
Start a step-off competition to see who in the family can take the most steps in a week. Get creative and offer a prize to the winner.
Assign active chores like washing the car, vacuuming, shoveling or raking. Try helping them land a paid job for a neighbor dog walking or mowing to increase motivation.
Get the kids’ friends together and go outside. Kids are much more likely to be active when they have a friend to play with.
Choose hiking, biking, ice or roller skating instead of a trip to the movies as your weekend family activity.
Encourage and support your child’s involvement in an organized sport.
Help them discover a fun hobby like bird watching, nature photography, or gardening that gets them connected to nature while moving those bodies more.
Park at the opposite end of the mall from their favorite store.
Take them to the playground regularly.
Set up an outside treasure hunt or hide and seek game in the neighborhood.
Walk or ride bikes to school and friends homes when possible and safe..
What works for you?
Can you add to my list? What has worked well for you? What resistance did you experience and how did you handle it?