It’s all over the news; Americans are getting fatter and fatter, and so are our children. Today more than 15% of children are overweight; are are in the first generation of Americans who are expected to have shorter lifespans than their parents.
Overweight and obese children are at risk for Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other serious health concerns that used to be exclusively adult issues. They also may suffer from low self-esteem that comes from being teased, bullies or socially rejected by their peers.
To help prevent childhood obesity, avoid these three common traps:
- Don’t use food to modify behavior. Avoid using sweets or other foods as a reward for good behavior or to try to stop unwanted behavior. Instead try other rewards like stickers, blowing bubbles, trinkets from the dollar store, an extra book, five more minutes at the playground, and other incentives.
- Don’t join the clean plate club. I know; we pay good money for that food and hate to see it go to waste, but it’s more important to teach children healthy eating habits than to save a few bucks. Pay attention to your child’s hunger cues and let your child decide how much to eat. To avoid wasting food, encourage your child to start with a smaller portion and take seconds – or thirds – instead of taking a huge portion and not eating it.
- Don’t classify foods as “good” or “bad” and don’t ban all sweets or snack foods. Banning foods may cause children to rebel and binge on forbidden foods when away from home, or sneak them in while at home. Instead, teach your children about “anytime foods” or “sometimes foods” and encourage them to enjoy “sometimes foods” in reasonable amounts.
To keep your children healthy and fit, try these three easy tips:
- Start the day right. Make sure your child gets a nutritious breakfast every day. Your child will be less hungry, have more energy, and be less likely to snack on junk food.
- Stock up on healthy snacks. Encourage your child to snack on fresh fruits and veggies, yogurt, healthy granola bars (not the chocolate-covered ones!) whole grain crackers, cheese, raisins, etc. Or let your child combine several components into a fun personalized snack mix!
- Help your child be physically active every day. Take a walk up the block, see who can jump the furthest, or race your child from the car to the house. Your child will bask in your attention and you’ll know that you’re helping her be more healthy.
Eat well and move every day!