by Hillary Rinehardt
After three decades of rising obesity among kids, there is a ray of hope. According to a recent study by Kaiser Permanente published in the Journal of Pediatrics, obesity and overweight rates among kids are beginning to fall. The progress in dealing with this issue has been the result of awareness of the problem and making smart choices. To help your children maintain a healthy body weight, consider the following tips:
Monkey see, monkey do. Choose healthy foods and snacks for yourself. The best way to influence your child is by your own healthy example. If your children see you eating your vegetables and being active, there’s a good chance they will too. Make a commitment to be a good role model for your children—it will have the happy side effect of helping you maintain a healthy weight as well.
Lay off the sugar. It is scientifically proven that sugar is addictive. The more you have it, the more you crave it. And it’s everywhere. Instead of eating meals and snacks filled with sugar, encourage your kids to eat fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruit will help curb the craving for sweets. Beware of sugary drinks. Read the labels—even fruit drinks and fruit punch can contain added sugar and extra calories. Encourage your family to drink lots of water. Try flavored waters with zero calories.
Don’t forbid foods or use food as a reward. Forbidding foods only increases a child’s desire for that food. Instead of saying no to your child’s favorite food, limit the portion size. Make sure your kids are eating healthy foods first, but don’t use food as a reward. If they are full with healthy foods, it will be easier to deflect them from the urge for sweets and treats, or at least to keep the portion to a reasonable size. Eat out responsibly.
Avoid fast food whenever possible. If not possible, order the healthiest thing on the menu. When dining at a restaurant, choose simple food items for your kids—not items loaded with extra calories and fat. Look for options on the kids’ menu such as grilled chicken, baked potatoes, and vegetables. Stay away from the deep fryer. If you order take out or home delivery, remember that you can add items to the meal from home, like a glass of skim milk, a cup of applesauce, or a side salad.
Be physically active. It’s important for all of us to stay physically fit. Make it a family effort. Get your kids dancing by playing their favorite music and dance along while preparing dinner or after meals. Plan family activities that get everyone moving like biking, evening walks, or sports at the park. If your kids love video games, expand their choices by including active games that promote balance and fitness instead of sitting and only using their thumbs. Also, check out the local YMCA for kid-friendly activities.
Whatever your children’s weight, let them know that you love them and that all you want to do is help them be healthy and happy.