Today’s generation is the first generation in U.S. history not expected to live longer than their parents. The main reason: obesity. Doctors are concerned about childhood obesity because it can lead to life-threatening conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, and sleep apnea. Regretfully, social isolation and discrimination can also be an outcome for the obese child. Although obesity can be linked to one’s genetic makeup, there are important behaviors within our control that can reduce the likelihood of excessive weight gain. So what can parents can do to protect their children from the dangers of childhood obesity?
Limit passive television, internet, and video game entertainment. What’s the magic number? Two hours per day or less.
Rarely give your kids sugary sweets or high-fat treats. You should never allow your children to eat sugary sweets or sodas on a daily basis. Our children only get sugary treats maybe once a week or twice a month. And, as a result, they don’t crave them or hound us for them. Healthy snacks include bananas, carrots, fig newtons, grapes, and other fruits. Fruit juices contain a lot of sugar as well. Mix water with about 1/6th organic fruit juice. This will keep your kids hydrated, keep the calories low, and still give them a little flavor and vitamin C. Of course, it’s even better if you can juice the fruit yourself.
Make them move! It doesn’t necessarily have to involve expensive gymnastic classes, structured swim lessons, or an overly scheduled lifestyle. Remember when you were a kid? Most of us spent a good portion of our childhood entertaining ourselves by running around the neighborhood playing games. We weren’t thinking about exercise – we were just doing it. Chase your kids around the yard or go for an evening walk with the family. Just make sure that they move their bodies every day.
Eat at home. One major reason to eat at home that many people may ignore is the fact that you can control the cleanliness of your food. A friend of mine who worked at a four-star restaurant went into work one day with the flu. When I asked him why he would go in and handle food, he said he wouldn’t get paid and could even get fired for missing a busy weekend shift. But as it pertains to obesity, portion control is the main reason to eat at home. Today’s plate in the average American restaurant was yesterday’s platter that fed an entire family.
Hide the veggies. With kids, especially picky toddlers and preschoolers, you can sneak the veggies into their diets by making their food fun. For example, you can make a salad into a cartoon-looking face, or a plate of whole-grain pancakes into a clown face with strategically- placed berries. Also, make a list of their favorite dishes and think of creative ways you can make them more healthful.
With collective education and effort, we can reverse the dire prediction regarding the longevity of the youngest among us and help make them the healthiest generation to have ever lived. It’s up to us to protect our children.