Nicki Anderson: Teach kids healthy eating habits during obesity month
By Nicki Anderson firstname.lastname@example.org September 10, 2012 1:00PM
Updated: October 14, 2012 1:04PM
In the past four decades, obesity rates in the United States are still uncomfortably high. Both adults and children are being negatively impacted by poor diet and lack of exercise.
According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 23 million children and teenagers in the U.S., ages 2 to 19, are obese or overweight. Sadly, that puts almost a third of America’s children at early risk for Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and even stroke — conditions usually associated with adulthood.
September is National Childhood Obesity Month, so it’s a good time to focus on creating healthy eating habits in children and adults. As parents, teachers, neighbors and relatives, there are things you can do to help get children moving, eating better and avoid becoming a statistic. Here are a few:
Be a healthy role model: Healthy living and ideals come from home. What children see, they do. If they see their parents exercising regularly, that sends a message to them that it’s important. Conversely, if children see their parents watching television or sitting at the computer for hours, that will become their norm. With today’s lifestyle, we have to move our bodies more, and encourage our kids to do the same. But, it has to start in the home.
No two children are the same: It isn’t unusual for parents to worry about their kids if they’re not “thin.” This perception is completely media driven. The fact is, there are a variety of reasons why some kids are thin and others are not. Consider bone structure and genetics, among other factors. Comparing children has gotten out of hand. The best thing you can teach your child is that no two bodies are alike. That last thing you want to have is a child that looks at exercise as a means of punishment for an imperfect body. Kids need to exercise every day because they sit too much, period. If we teach our kids to exercise to be a certain size, an unhealthy fixation will begin. Encouraging exercise because it will help to make them the best they can be is a life-saving lesson.
Instill healthy living skills: I have always believed that sound nutrition and regular exercise should be part of a formal teaching curriculum. I remember when I was in school, we had home economics. That’s where I learned to cook. I wish they still taught that with an emphasis on healthy meals. I wish teachers, families and community were able to put as much value on staying active and eating well, as they do on school studies. The reality is that we can push our kids to be smart, but if they’re not healthy, they’re missing a cog in the wheel of success. Studies have shown time and time again, active kids who eat well tend to be better students translating to more successful, healthy adults.
Involve kids in meal planning: Research indicates that children who are more involved with selection and preparation of meals are likely to experiment and enjoy a wide variety of foods. Give your children the privilege of participating in family meals, be it planning, preparation, serving or learning about the nutritional information in a family meal. The younger children experience high-quality, wholesome food, the better chance they will have of eating healthy as an adult. Most important, don’t let them skip breakfast. If time is of the essence, go for a whole-grain cereal like Bear Naked. Avoid popular high sugar cereals. Toss in some fruit to increase fiber and overall nutrition. Coffee doesn’t count as breakfast no matter how much milk it has.
Plan family outings that include exercise: If you’re planning a getaway with your family, be sure to plan some active time. Hiking, camping, bike rides, swimming and skiing are all activities that can include the entire family. Why not create a tradition of after-dinner walks? Fifteen to 20 minutes of walking is not only great exercise for the family, it helps get the brain activated for homework.
Avoid fast food as much as possible: I remember when my kids were younger, and I had four kids who I had to get to all different activities. There was no time to cook. However, there was always time to make sandwiches. Either I would pack lunch bags, or if we had even a bit of time at home in-between drop-offs, it was soup and sandwiches. I know how easy it is to go through the drive-through, but there are less expensive and significantly healthier options. Just planning ahead can greatly reduce the number of fast-food runs. If kids realize there are options, they will follow suit when their time is cut short. They’ll not only be saving money but preserving their health.
For more information on National Childhood Obesity Month, visit www.whitehouse.gov or www.healthierkidsbrighterfutures.org.
Do you have an inspiring story about your journey to fitness? Share it with Nicki Anderson at email@example.com.