Approximately 12 million children and adolescents are considered to be obese, defined as a BMI of 30 or higher, in the United States. Health professionals and parents are working diligently to curtail the problem with some success. Obesity among young children is down 43 percent. Although some are making improvements, much more needs to be done to address this health crisis. Here's how you can help as a parent.
1. Be a Good Role Model
Children learn everything they know about life and about how to live a good one by observing those around them. As a parent, you are your child's most influential role model. If you're overweight or if you eat unhealthy food, your child is likely to do so as well.
If you model a healthy life, on the other hand, your child is likely to follow suit. Think about it; your child mimics everything you do, even the embarrassing stuff. They are a true glimpse of yourself. If you want them to adopt healthy habits, show them by doing it yourself.
2. Encourage Healthy Eating
Encourage healthy eating habits by preparing healthy, balanced meals. Opt for whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. If you have favorite family recipes, look for ways to make them healthier. Swapping an ingredient or two could mean the difference between an unhealthy meal and a healthy one.
As a family, observe portion control. Measure serving sizes before plating and discourage going back to the kitchen for seconds. If your child is still hungry, give them a low-calorie food, such as a piece of fruit to round off the meal.
3. Remove High-Calorie Foods
Given the choice between an apple and a snack cake, most children will choose the latter. If you want your child to make healthy choices all the time, you must remove tempting high-calorie foods from the house.
Strive to keep snacks (anything consumed between meals) under 100 calories. Good examples include one small piece of fruit, .75 ounces of cheddar cheese, a small handful of almonds, one small oatmeal cookie, and more.
4. Limit Screen Time
On average, children under nine years of age spend two hours in front of some sort of screen, which includes the TV, tablet, and cellphone. Older children spend even more time in front of a screen, especially those from low-income families. Statistics show that children from economically-challenged families spend twice the amount of time in front of a screen than financially secure families.
Children are sedentary for most of the day while they are at school. Too much screen time only enhances the sedentary lifestyle. Limit your child's screen time and encourage them to spend at least an hour each day engaging in physical activity with their friends.
5. Get the Family Moving
Active families raise active children. Engage in physical activities with the family whenever possible to encourage a healthy lifestyle. Instead of playing board games or video games on family game night, play a game of ball in the backyard. Plan activities on the weekend, such as canoeing, hiking, swimming, dance lessons, etc.
Every minute of physical activity counts. Look for ways you can get active each and every day. Take the stairs, race back to the car, walk the dog together, or do jumping jacks during commercials. It doesn't take much to make a big difference.
To keep your child happy and healthy, you must be a good role model, encourage healthy eating, and get your family moving regularly. If you have any questions regarding your child's weight or activity level, make an appointment with Pediatric Consultants today.