by Patricia Lutner
Obesity in children and adults is at an all-time high in our country. Obesity rates in children have doubled over the past 30 years. Children and adults are experiencing more physical and psychological conditions due to obesity. Poor academic performance, behavior issues and conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety and depression can be related to being overweight.
You can do a variety of things to encourage your children to adopt a healthy lifestyle. First, set a good example. What a child sees you doing they will do. What they see you eating, they will eat. Therefore, the choices you make about food and exercise help establish your children’s habits.
Preparing meals together is a good way to get children involved and to start the conversation about foods and healthy food choices. Cooking helps develop math, fine motor, hygiene and listening skills. It also helps strength the parent-child connection. Eating healthy meals together can encourage positive conversations, strengthen family bonds and provide examples of positive eating habits and good table manners for your children.
During a trip to the grocery store with your child, discuss different fruits and vegetables, their colors, their smells and their textures. Encourage your child to take a chance with you and try something new!
Don’t make children clean their plates. Children will usually stop eating when they have had enough. By forcing children to clean their plates, parents may encourage overeating. Portion size is the key here. For children who are picky eaters, you can offer new foods in small amounts. It may take multiple attempts to convince the child to taste the food. Don’t give up. Try cutting foods into various shapes that appeal to the child, or add ketchup, yogurt or mustard for dipping.
Offer children snacks, but make sure they don’t have too many and the snacks are healthy. Fruits, vegetables, low-fat yogurt, low-fat cheese and whole-grain crackers are some good options.
Offer children water, milk (of any type your doctor recommends) and 100% juice. Children should not have soda or beverages with caffeine.
We should also not forget the value of exercise. Keep moving, burn off those calories, strengthen your muscles and have fun! There are many simple ways to be active as a family. Take a walk together, dance to fun music, play tag or have a race in the backyard. All of these are free and easy to do.
The benefits of establishing a healthy, active lifestyle for you and your child will last a lifetime.
For information on the food groups, the food plate, serving sizes for children of different ages and many other helpful tips, visit www.choosemyplate.gov.