After being at the Natural Foods Expo for the past few days, nothing but healthy, nutritious food is on my mind, however, the sad truth is that childhood obesity rates have tripled in the past 30 years with portion sizes growing and physical activity lacking. Children are now experiencing what were once thought to be “adult” conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and even Type 2 Diabetes.
We were extremely inspired by 12-year old Marshall Reid who took obesity issue into his own hands and made the changes for himself which helped to inspire his entire family to change their habits as well. They even wrote the book called “Portion Size Me: A Kid-Driven Plan To A Healthier Family.” Here is the link to see the full interview with Marshall and his family.
Here are a few great tips to start promoting a healthy lifestyle within your family!
Supportive Food Environment: Of course with healthy change should come healthy foods, so stock up with the whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy and lean protein. More than just the obvious changes, it’s important to identify foods in the house that your child may struggle with. If your child seeks out favorite snacks such as potato chips or cookies and struggles with portion size for these foods it can be helpful to buy those foods periodically, say once a month rather than weekly.
Calorie Free Beverages: Remove the calorie-filled beverages such as juice, soda and other sweetened beverages. These drinks provide empty, excess calories to your child’s day that can lead to weight gain. Offer water, seltzer or low fat milk for daily beverages and leave the sweetened drinks for special occasions.
Family Dinners: Studies show that children from families who share a meal together at least 3 times per week were more likely to be within a normal weight range and have better eating patterns consisting of healthier foods. Make an effort to gather around the dinner table with your family to enjoy the benefits of this shared meal.
Activity Time: Physical activities such as hiking, bike riding, swimming or even a walk after dinner can be a great way to spend time together and start exercise as a regular part of your family routine. Obviously this can be a challenge when the week gets busy, but even something as simple as an after dinner walk or a quick toss around of the Frisbee can make a difference. Try to work in longer periods of time on weekends for a bigger family activity such as going for a hike or long bike ride.
Family Dessert Night: Many parents struggle when they are faced with the nightly question of “can I have dessert?” It can be a tough negotiation to face after a long day and can often lead to giving into your little one’s sweet tooth a bit too often. A simple solution can be to define a family dessert night. Designate a day where the entire family enjoys a dessert and on the remainder of the week offer fruit after dinner if still hungry.
If you would like to get more ideas on what you can do to help lower childhood obesity rates, check out the Alliance For A Healthier Generation.