Health Habits: Improving Your Child’s Health

The percentage of obese children and adolescents has more than tripled since the 1970’s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  For the sake of this article, “childhood obesity” or “children” will include both children and adolescents.  Several factors contribute to childhood obesity including genetics, metabolism, diet and physical activity, environmental influences, lack of quality sleep, and negative life events.  Children are not immune to what are considered adult health issues.  Childhood obesity can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. While not all factors can be controlled, people can still help children live a healthy life.  

As with adults, children suffer psychological consequences of obesity.  Obesity stigma, teasing and bullying can wreak havoc in a child’s life, compounding already existing stress.   There are ways to encourage healthy habits with children without making it an issue. 

The earlier people instill the taste for vegetables, fruit and whole foods, the better.  Offering children two to three healthy foods to choose from is a common recommendation from pediatricians.  They also recommend introducing infants and toddlers to vegetables first, then fruit.  

Serve a variety of foods to help them meet their daily requirements.  Make things easier by stocking up on some of the healthier options they like, such as Greek yogurt, fruit and yogurt cups, sliced fruit, granola, cottage cheese, veggie sticks and ranch dip or pita chips and hummus.

Get the children involved in preparing or cooking the meals you eat. Studies show that when children have a greater involvement with the food on their plate, they’re more apt to eat it.  Use mealtimes to teach and lead by example.  Enjoy time at the table as a family and reconnect. 

Limit portion sizes. Follow serving sizes on packaging when packing lunch for your children or research correct portion sizes on myplate.gov.  

Play games with the kids to get them physically active.  If you own a Wii game system, try games such as Just Dance or Best For Zumba.  Or go old school and break out Twister and get wrapped up with the family.

These are just a few of the things that everyone can do to encourage healthy eating and more physical activity.  The goal is to find discrete ways of introducing lifelong health habits for children.  Talk to your child’s pediatrician about their needs so that you can be sure their growth needs are met.  Children are still growing, so diets can be detrimental in many ways.  They need those nutrients and healthy fats to continue to develop into healthy adults. Teach them and lead by example.  Whole, nutrient-dense foods, physical activity and time with loved ones will nourish your children and help them grow into healthy adults. 

This week’s health habit: Lead by example, encourage healthy food choices and eat together.

 

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