The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 17% of children are obese. And about a third of those obese children will grow up to be obese adults, leading some health experts to call childhood obesity an epidemic and a health crisis. These are scary statistics with lifelong health implications, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, high blood pressure and cholesterol, reduced mobility, and stroke, among many more. It’s a significant and overwhelming problem, and Meritage Medical Network (along with Canopy Health) wants to be part of the solution by offering pediatric weight management courses.
It is important for all children to learn how to make healthy choices. Encouraging kids to eat healthier and adopt an active lifestyle can be a challenge, however.
Here are four ideas of how you can help your children build a strong foundation for a healthy future.
Offer Nutritious and Healthy Food Options
Getting children to eat the food on the table can be tough. In many instances, children use food to exercise the limited amount of control they have as adolescents. However, all is not lost.
Here are a few simple ways to get your kids to eat healthy foods:
- Try including your children in meal- and snack-planning by giving them choices. For example, ask if they would like to eat broccoli or green beans as a side dish or if they would prefer an apple or pear for a snack. By giving them options, you are allowing them some control over what they eat and making them active participants in their own diets.
- Get a healthy children’s cookbook and have your kids help you cook. Kids will take pride in their culinary creations and will be more eager to reap the benefits of their work.
- If you have space, plant a vegetable garden so your kids can help grow the healthy foods they eat.
- Go to a local farmers’ market and have the vendors explain to your children where their food comes from and how it’s grown. If kids take an interest in the “adventure” their fruits and veggies took to get to their plate, they might be more inclined to eat it.
- It’s always smart to lead by example. Enthusiastically eat the healthy foods you are trying to get your children to eat.
Encourage Fun Exercise Time
A body in motion, stays in motion. Kids may often hear the word “exercise” and have negative feelings about it. Sometimes they hear adults complaining about having to exercise like it’s a chore, but creating a positive experience around exercise will encourage children to participate in fun activities.
- Exercise as a family. Walks after dinner, bike rides after school, and hiking at a local park on the weekends are all great ways to spend quality time together as a family while exercising.
- Participating in sports, no matter what level or activity, is beneficial to children. Whether it’s baseball, soccer, gymnastics, or basketball, your kids can share their excitement with you when they learn a new skill or score some points. Seeing you cheering them on in a game can serve as motivation for a deepening interest in sports and other exercise.
- Ask your child what they want to do. Maybe they want to play tag in the back yard, have a catch at the park, or shoot some hoops at the community center. Again, as with their diet, giving your children choice in exercise will increase their experience.
- Actively participate in the exercises with your child. Your excitement and energy is bound to rub off on them, making them more likely to participate.
Reduce Screen Time
Screen time, whether it’s on a computer, tablet, smartphone, or television, can be damaging to children’s physical well-being. Even though screen time can be mentally stimulating, it often goes hand-in-hand with sitting and inactivity.
Strive to balance sedentary activities with more active ones. For instance, you could download an app, watch a television program, or play a video game that requires physical activity to enjoy.
Sleep is incredibly important for a child’s well-being and contributes to their overall health. According to the CDC, children 1-5 years old need between 10-14 hours of sleep per day (including naps), 6-12 year olds need 9-12 hours, and teenagers need 8-10 hours. Here are some tips to maximize quality sleep for kids:
- Set a bedtime routine so kids fall asleep around the same time every day.
- Create a relaxing environment to sleep free of noise and large temperature fluctuations.
- Avoid using screens for an hour before bed to help your child’s brain “turn off” so they can get to bed easier.
- Do not serve a large dinner right before bed. Allow at least 1-2 hours between dinner and bedtime.
Childhood Obesity Facts (2016, December 22). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html
How Much Sleep Do I Need? (2017, January 24). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved fromhttps://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html
Serdula, MK., Ivery, D., Coates, RJ., Freedman, DS., Williamson, DF., & Byers, T. (1993, March). Do obese children become obese adults? A review of the literature. Preventive Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8483856