Childhood Obesity has become an increasing problem in the United States over the last three decades. Diseases that were once rare in children, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes are on the rise. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 17% (12.5 million) of children age 2-19 years are obese. As parents you can help fight childhood obesity by raising healthy active children.
What Can Parents Do?
The first step for parents is to set an example and be a positive role model for their children. If a child grows up in an environment where exercise is the norm, he/she is more likely to be active. Kids need 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity, five days a week.
One way for parents to ensure their children are getting enough physical activity is to exercise as a family. Instead of watching television after dinner, take children for a walk, a bike ride or rollerblading.
Take advantage of Colorado’s temperate climate, with lots of sunshine, easy accessibility to trails, and paved paths. On weekends, venture from home and discover new trails, playgrounds, bike paths and open space – all free for the taking!
Remember that children have short attention spans so keep activities fun to avoid boredom. One way to do this is to turn exercise into a competition. Take your kids to places where they will be encouraged to be active such as parks and jungle gyms. During inclement weather, find an indoor pool or skating rink, or visit a recreation center. The important part is to motivate your kids to get active and stay active.
Parents should also limit children’s screen time. This includes television, video games, and computer time. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines recommend keeping screen time to less than two hours per day. Watching television and playing video games take time away from healthy activities for children, so turn off the TV and video games and get outdoors!
You Are What You Eat
Another key ingredient to raising healthy kids is good nutrition. Start by getting kids involved with the preparation of dinner. Even younger children can contribute by helping to set the table or lending a hand by stirring. As children get older, they can become more involved in the preparation. When children help create meals they are more likely to try something new and feel a sense of ownership in the meals they help make.
Also, try to get your children to eat a variety of foods. This can be tough, especially if you have a picky eater. So start with little changes ( offering a variety of colors) and always serve one food that your child will eat, even if they do not like the new food you are introducing. By doing this, you will be giving your children more nutrients and keeping their plate more interesting.
Remember to control your kid’s portion sizes. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that serving size for toddlers equal one quarter to one half of the recommended serving size of an adult. A good rule of thumb for portion sizes is to serve 1 tablespoon of food per child’s age. For example, two tablespoons of peas would equal one serving for a two year-old and three tablespoons of peas for a three year-old.
Read food labels on the items that you purchase. The fewer the number of ingredients listed on the food label; the healthier the food. Pay attention to serving sizes and the order of ingredients. If sugar (any form) or salt are one of the first three ingredients, try to avoid these foods.
Also, don’t just look for fat content. Look for sodium, fiber, and cholesterol values. As parents, it is your responsibility to know what you are feeding your child. This means you should also be aware of what your child is eating at school and when away from home. Push to have foods that contain trans fat removed from school menus.
Sound nutrition and physical activity are important to raising healthy children. Obesity can have a negative psychological affect on children; the consequences can lead to low self-esteem and depression. As a child’s weight increases, so does the likelihood of developing psychological issues.
Think about whether the activities offered at recess and during after school programs are age appropriate. Do these activities help your child develop both physically and mentally?
Activities for preschoolers should help them develop motor skills. Examples are playing kickball or learning to throw a ball. As they become school age, activities should teach them healthy competition and teamwork. School age children should learn basic skills and enhance these skills as they get older.
Physical activities for teens range from sports to specialized programs such as yoga or martial arts. Students should be educated about healthy lifestyles, not just weight loss.
Raising healthy, active children begins at home. As parents, it is vital that you set the example and give your child a chance at success by supplying them with the necessary tools. Get them involved in physical activity as well as provide them healthy meals and snacks.
Keep these tips in mind and you will be on your way to raising a healthy active child.
* One initiative to teach kids healthy habits is the Coordinated Approach to Child Health, CATCH. It is a nutrition and physical activity based program that teaches children lifelong healthy habits. South Suburban’s Sheridan Recreation Center is offering a free class, June 19 - July 5,on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 - 11 a.m. for students in grades 3-5. For more information call (303) 730-4610 or go to CATCH Healthy Habits.
For more information about how to incorporate healthy food choices and physical activity into your child’s schedule, contact Lisa at Lisar@sspr.org.