Since the 1970s, the rate of childhood obesity in our country has tripled. Today, one-third of American youth is overweight or obese, and subsequently at risk for Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and even stroke, at an early age. If you’re concerned about your children’s health, check out these 8 tips for keeping your kids healthy.
It is important to model and reinforce a healthy lifestyle at a young age. Consider the eating and exercise habits you learned as a child. Which of those, positive and negative, are still with you today? The following are some ways that you can set a good example:
- Eat your veggies. It’s helpful for kids to see you eating a variety of vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. Try new things together and talk about what you enjoy.
- Cut back on sugary drinks. When your kids are thirsty, provide water. For other types of beverages be sure to check the sugar content; offer half the serving!
- Shop together. Invite your child to go to the grocery store or farmers market with you. This fall, let them pick their own apples! Discuss where vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and protein foods come from. Ask your children for their help in making healthy choices for the family.
- Get creative in the kitchen. Cut food into fun and easy shapes with cookie cutters. Encourage your child to make food and trail mix from scratch and invent new snacks.
- Reward with attention, not food. Show your love with hugs, kisses, and quality time. Choose not to offer sweets as rewards- it can lead your child to think sweets or dessert foods are better than other foods.
- Focus on each other at the table. Make mealtime a time to talk and connect as a family, turn off the TV, put away cell phones and focus on each other.
- Listen to your child. If your child says he or she is hungry, offer a small, healthy snack—even if it is not a scheduled time to eat. Ask for their input on their school lunch.
- Encourage physical activity. Aim for 60 minutes of exercise a day. Make physical activity fun for the whole family. Set limits on screen time. Encourage everyone to get up and move during commercials – it’s a great time for stretching, sit-ups, or a jog up the stairs.
Prior to your child’s next check-up, estimate your child’s weight percentile; use this tool from the CDC. Discuss your concerns with the pediatrician.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United States Department of Agriculture, www.letsmove.gov, LifeWork Strategies, and Washington and Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Centers. For additional information, consult your physician.