9 Tips to Help Parents Avoid Childhood Obesity
Being overweight or obese as a child not only raises their risk of chronic disease during their youth, but astronomically raises the likelihood to develop harmful diseases as an adult. From building a healthy environment to cooking together, implement these childhood obesity prevention tips.
Obesity is becoming more of a public health concern, as overweight and obesity rates are extending to our country's youngest population. In fact, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
How to Prevent Childhood Obesity
1. Educate on Health
It is important to connect the need for good nutrition for good health for prevention childhood obesity. Start and continue to educate children on the significance of a healthy lifestyle no matter what the life stage. Explain how eating healthy and keeping active can help with weight management, strengthen bones, promote heart health, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase self-esteem and self-confidence.
2. Build A Healthy Environment
Create and promote a healthy eating environment to cultivate and form healthy habits. Try reducing convenience snack foods allowed in the house and load the kitchen with colorful fresh fruits and veggies. On most nights, sit down to a family meal, turn off all electronics, and focus on the meal in front of you and your loved ones circling the table. Additionally, children growing up with family meals may be more likely to set the dinner table with nutritious meals as grown adults.
3. Cook Together
From retrieving ingredients to prepping meals, involve kids in the total process of cooking and get them in the kitchen. Whether varying in cooking techniques or trying new recipes, have fun experimenting with foods. Along with experimentation, research ingredients and their health benefits to strengthen a healthy relationship with food, including the use of milk for bone support.
4. Make Favorite Dishes Healthier
Use this time as an opportunity to not only cook together, but explore healthier alternatives. For instance, rather than popping in a frozen pizza, create one with fresh ingredients. Prepare a simple crust or use individual flatbreads and tortillas, adding favorite toppings for a personalized pizza. Pair with a side salad for a complete well-balanced meal!
5. Moderate Sweets
Sugar intake is a major cause of concern when it comes to childhood obesity, further leading to risks of heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. The American Heart Association encourages children's sugar consumption to be limited to 25 grams (equivalent to six teaspoons) of sugar per day, which can be achieved by offering naturally-sweetened fruits and keeping cookies, cakes, and other sweet treats reduced.
6. Start A Garden
Expose children to food production by starting and growing a garden. Not only is gardening beneficial at promoting good nutrition and physical health, but heightens food appreciation. But if the thought of a personal garden seems too overwhelming, seek out local community gardens in your area. Gardening is also leisurely hobby encouraging physical fitness.
7. Get Active as A Family
Get active as a family to lower the risk of weight gain and obesity for all members, along with building memories together. And remember, exercising does not have to be a chore and there is simply no wrong way to be active, just that you are! Gather the family and head to the trails, shoot hoops at the basketball court, take the dog on a walk, helmet up for a bike ride, or any other activity you enjoy doing together. Encouraging children to explore available sports and activities at school can be an obesity prevention measure, along with supporting sportsmanship and self-confidence.
8. Reduce Screen Time
Screen time is essentially sedentary time, as children tend to sit down in front of the television to play a video game or scroll through the internet. Kids should be limited to two or fewer hours of screen time per day, while the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend TV for kids aged two or younger. Instead of spending countless hours watching television, encourage your children to find fun activities to do on their own or with family members that involve more activity, or at least swapping out the remote with a mind-stimulating book to read.
9. Lead by Example
As a parent or caregiver, it is imperative to lead by example. Children tend to "follow the leader," making your role necessary for cultivating healthy habits to subsequently prevent and fight against childhood obesity. But if you personally need assistance for developing a healthy lifestyle, do not feel ashamed or resistant to seek out the guidance of dietitian or nutrition expert. Their professional expertise can equip you with lasting skills and knowledge which can in turn trickle down to children.