Obesity in children is a very real and increasing problem. Lack of planned activity and structure, along with increased accessibility to sugared drinks and snack foods contribute. Quite simply, they’re eating too much and doing too little.
Our American society promotes the consumption of unhealthy food and snacks, so it’s hard for children to make healthy choices. They are surrounded by these choices at home, fundraisers and sporting events, and they can buy snacks easily at the grocery store or gas station.
Helping kids follow a few simple guidelines can make huge strides toward prevention and promoting a healthy lifestyle:
- Try to discourage eating in front of the TV, and limit TV time. It’s too easy to overeat and mindlessly reach for sugary or salty snacks. If that’s not possible, designate TV-friendly snacks in premeasured amounts.
- Watch portion size. Consider preparing bags of healthy snacks, especially for travel, such as if you’re going to watch or play in a game or your child is going to a park or playdate.
- Stock the house. Make healthy choices the staples. Fruits and vegetables should be abundance – easily and readily available. Throw in a few options like unsalted pretzels, yogurt, peanut butter, hummus or cheese cubes to keep things interesting.
- Get moving. Encourage at least 60 minutes of physical exercise every day – aerobic activity is best. Try walking, biking (with a helmet of course), playing outside, running, playing group sports like baseball or soccer and swimming if a pool is accessible. Be smart about heat and sun exposure too. If it’s too hot or humid, have them go early in the morning or at sunset, and always apply sunscreen!
- Join them. Just like adults, kids tend to be more active in groups, so plan family activities around movement and exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise. Set family bikes or hikes, make a contest out of ‘round the block runs, or join an exercise class. You’ll benefit, and so will they!
You want them to eat well and not gain weight. It’s all about helping them be happy and stay well. Back to school is a great time to introduce a new structure and develop better snacking habits.