Statistics show childhood obesity at an all-time high. This increase in obesity has resulted in a higher prevalence of “adult” diseases in children: Type 2 diabetes, heart conditions, high blood pressure, stroke, and depression. There are many theories assigned to this epidemic – the amount of processed foods consumed, lack of exercise, increased use of screen time, or likely, a combination of all. The good news is this trend is completely reversible and starts with you and your family. Here are some helpful hints for positive lifestyle changes you can incorporate at home.
∎ Make healthy eating a priority for you and your children. “Eat your rainbow!” Always have plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables available, and limit the amount of junk food in the house (out of sight, out of mind). Instead, provide a variety of healthy snacks and plenty of water.
Also, try to prioritize sitting down to family meals, including breakfast. In today’s fast-paced, overscheduled world, this may seem a tall order, but the benefits are priceless. Embarking on a path of healthy eating as a family sets your children up for a lifetime of healthful habits.
∎ Get cooking with your children. Cooking together with your kids is a great way to spend quality time with them, and it will foster a sense of accomplishment in creating and contributing to their family. Besides, children are more likely to try new foods when they have had a hand in preparing them.
∎ Start a garden. Just like cooking, a child who plants and grows his/her own food is more likely to try a variety of fruit and vegetables. Being involved in the planting and tending of seeds and following them through to harvest is hugely empowering. In addition, connecting children to nature is immeasurably beneficial to their development (intellectually, emotionally, socially, spiritually and physically), especially in today’s high-tech world where access to nature is often limited. If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of exposing kids to nature, check out Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.
∎ Exercise regularly each day and invite your children to engage in activities with you, such as biking, hiking and walking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends children and adolescents should do 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day. For more information regarding types of activity, check out their website at at cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/children.html.
∎ Limit screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children should be limited to less than two hours of entertainment-based screen time per day, and TVs or internet access should not be allowed in their bedrooms. Instead, try replacing screen time with physical activity, reading or other family-friendly activities.
∎ Finally, don’t ban sweets and screens entirely. Prohibiting certain foods and activities tends to lead to binging and overindulging. Besides, who wants to live in a world without cookies and ice cream?! Check out Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign (letsmove.gov ) for more information on how to raise a healthier generation of kids.
The Capital Area Wellness Coalition meets in the Smile Building on the second Wednesday of each month at 8 a.m. For more information, call 867-8194 or visit capwellness.org.