Today, about one of three American kids and teens are overweight or obese. Among children today, obesity is causing a broad range of health problems that previously weren’t seen until adulthood. These include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol levels. There are also psychological effects. Obese children are more prone to low self-esteem, negative body image and depression. However, there are a lot of ways for parents to stop obesity and prevent obesity in our children. They are as simple changes we can make to our daily lives. It all begins with helping your children develop healthy habits that will lead to a healthy lifestyle.
One part of developing healthy eating habits is to know what a portion size is. To give you an idea these are portion sizes recommended by the American Heart Association:
1 slice of bread
½ cup rice or pasta (cooked)
1 small piece of fruit (super-large apples are 2+ servings)
1 wedge of melon
¾ cup fruit juice
1 cup milk or yogurt
2 oz. cheese (about the size of a domino)
2-3 oz. meat, poultry or fish (this is about the size of a deck of cards)
If you are like me, you might be a little shocked at what a serving size actually is. It is no wonder obesity is higher than it has ever been, with supersized portions. Now when you dish up meals for your family, keep these portion sizes in mind and limit portion size for your family.
One problem I wrestle with daily is my picky eater. If Lily had her way she would only eat waffles, hotdogs, noodles and nothing else. It is important that our kids develop a pallet for a variety of foods and especially those foods that are healthy and good for their growing bodies. Here are some helpful tips for dealing with picky eaters:
Start by introducing healthier elements into foods that your child already likes. For example, offer blueberry pancakes, carrot muffins, fruit slices over a favorite cereal, chunks of bell pepper in a potato salad, or shredded veggies over rice.
Include your kids in the prep work. By being involved in grocery shopping and food preparation, your kids will have more ‘buy-in.’ If they feel some ownership over the meal, they may be more likely to eat it.
Don’t buy unhealthy foods. Out of sight, out of mind. If the chips and cookies aren’t around, your kids can’t eat them. They may resist at first, but when they get hungry, they’ll start munching the carrot sticks. Keep healthy foods on hand
Schedule snack time and stick to it. Most kids like routine. If your kids know they will only get food at certain times, they’ll eat what they get when they get it. Try to have snacks incorporate two food groups.
Have healthy finger foods available. Kids like to pick up foods, so give them foods they can handle. Fruit and veggie chunks (raw or cooked) are great finger-food options.
Repeal the “clean your plate” rule. Kids know when they’re full, so let them stop. Overeating is one of the major reasons we get too many calories.
Encourage kids to “eat their colors.” This game works well with younger kids. Food that’s bland in color often also lacks nutrients. Eating a variety of brightly colored foods provides more nutrients in greater variety.
Don’t cut out treats altogether. Think moderation. A scoop of ice cream or a serving of Oreos is all right occasionally. If you cut out all the goodies, your kids will be more likely to overeat when they do get them.
Veg out at the dinner table, not the TV. Eating in front of the TV is distracting, and kids may not notice that they’re full because they’re wrapped up in the show. Eating as a family is a great time to catch up.
Be a good role model. The best way to influence kids is by example. Don’t expect them to eat spinach if you won’t touch it.
In addition to healthy eating, exercise is important for growing bodies and healthy kids. One of the most important things we can do is to limit the amount of time our kids spend watching the boob tube (TV), playing video games, on the computer and on the phone or texting. Experts say that what kids want most is time with their parents. Don’t just send them out to play, GO PLAY WITH THEM. Instead of having family movie night or watching TV, play board games. ENGAGE your kids in conversation. We need to set a good example for our children…put the phone down, put down the iPad, laptop, turn off the TV and get active. Be a positive and ACTIVE role model for your kids. Take your pets outside and get the WHOLE family involved in exercising. It will bring your family closer together, create healthy bodies and healthy minds…MOST importantly, you will be helping your kids have healthy hearts.