Unhealthy, overweight kids grow up to be unhealthy, overweight adults who are at high risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and more. Parents today are busy. Processed foods and fast food have replaced healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables. Technology keeps children sedentary. The result: kids are eating too much sugar, sodium and fat and as much as 30% to 40% of their calories are coming from “junk food”. Physical activity is at an all-time low. The number of overweight children in North America has more than tripled over the past two decades and is reaching children at younger and younger ages. The amount of weight gained by each child, or the severity of obesity, has also increased – the heaviest kids are getting heavier. It’s not a pretty picture. Don’t let your kids become part of the statistics. Take responsibility. You may not be able to impact the health of every child out there, but you can impact the health of your own child. Here are ten things you can do as a parent to help your child maintain a healthy body weight or help your child to lose weight:
1. Serve healthy portion sizes at home and teach your child what a healthy portion size looks like.
2. Eat most meals at home, as a family, at the table. When you dine out, choose restaurants with healthier options. Limit fast food dining to once a week and ideally less.
3. Make it easy for your kids to eat healthy. Fill your fridge and cupboards with healthy, unprocessed foods and snacks. Have cut up veggies in the fridge and a fruit bowl on the counter at all times. Allow small treats (100 calories or less), but don’t keep a smorgasbord of unhealthy snacks, treats or desserts in your home.
4. Don’t have regular soft drinks in your home. Encourage your child to drink low fat milk and water. Limit fruit juice to one cup daily.
5. Teach your child how to cook and prepare healthy recipes. You won’t get far with an overweight child, especially an overweight teen, if you don’t engage them in the process.
6. Encourage physical activity at home, at school, and away from home – ideally at least an hour each day. All activity is good, but more vigorous activity appears to be especially effective. Limit screen time (television or computer) to 1 to 2 hours daily. Don’t have a television in your child’s bedroom.
7. Parental obesity is the best predictor of childhood obesity. Be a great role model and remember that healthy eating and active living should be a family affair. The greatest weight loss success stories are found with families that tackle the problem together.
8. Skipping meals does not support a healthy body weight. Non-stop snacking doesn’t either. Regular meals combined with small, nutritious snacks are best for keeping appetites and waistlines in check.
9. Choose a school for your child that supports healthy eating and regular physical activity or get involved in your child’s school and help make change happen.
10. Never use food as a reward. Understanding why your child overeats is just as important as what they eat. Do your best to give your child the love, care and attention that every child needs and deserves.
- Too many kids today are overweight or obese. Unhealthy, overweight kids grow up to be unhealthy, overweight adults. Promote a healthy body weight in your family by serving healthy foods and drinks, healthy portion sizes and having family meals at home. Teach your kids to cook. Encourage active living. Limit dining out, screen time, soft drinks and excess snacking. Be a great role model.