In the past 30 years, childhood obesity has more than tripled. Awareness of this problem has increased, but the numbers aren’t changing. If anything, obesity rates are on the rise. About 17 percent of children and young adults are obese, and by 2030 it is estimated that 42 percent of Americans will be obese. Why is this a problem? Obese children have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea, pre-diabetes, psychological issues, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and more. The list of negative effects, both long- and short-term, is practically endless. How can you make sure your children understand the value of a healthy lifestyle?
Lead by Example
How many times have you seen a young child imitate an adult? Whether it’s trying on makeup, pretending to mow the lawn or playing house, children copy what they see at home. Young children assume that their lifestyle is normal. If your mother eats McDonald’s every evening, it seems like perfectly acceptable adult behavior. You can promote health by exercising daily. Try to incorporate the attitude that this daily activity is a must: just like you brush your teeth every day, you exercise for 20 or 30 minutes. Making this an everyday routine will encourage this behavior to become a habit, which means they are more likely to stick with it into adulthood. If you get excited about it, they’ll look forward to spending that time with you, and everyone’s health will improve.
Regulate Their Diet – Together
Nutrition and label-reading is not a skill taught in most schools. Keep an eye on what your younger children eat throughout the day. Make sure they ask for permission before taking anything from the fridge or pantry. Many adults are shocked by how much they consume when they keep a food diary. Young children aren’t able to do this, so you need to keep a mental diary for them. As your children get older, teach them about diet and nutrition. Examine nutrition labels at the grocery store together, and offer to buy any snack they would like as long as it fits within certain parameters. (You can have any fruit snacks that have less than 10 grams of sugar). This will empower them to make decisions about which snack they would like, and you can feel good knowing that it won’t be terrible for them. Throw out any candy that hasn’t been eaten by one week after a holiday. If they haven’t eaten it by then, it’s not one of their favorites, so why keep it around? This will prevent your whole family from snacking on candy long after Halloween or Easter has ended.
Set Them Up For Success
If a type of food is not in the house, your child will not have access to it. Unlike adults, who can satisfy their cravings for sweets by driving to the ice cream parlor, children must choose from what’s in the fridge and pantry. Buy wheat bread, low-fat mayonnaise, apples, carrots, yogurt, and other healthful foods. It’s tempting to see a big box of cookies every day, no matter how old you are. For people with a sweet tooth, try a low-fat mousse snack pack or FiberOne chocolate bar as a dessert. Strive to cook most meals at home, because you can control what you put in them. You are the person who stocks your kitchen, and making good choices at the grocery store will help your children make good decisions at home.
Proper diet and exercise are difficult for many of us to master at any age, but the younger you start, the more it becomes part of your lifestyle. Many diets for adults are labeled as lifestyle changes. Get your children started off on the right foot now, and they won’t need to make those drastic changes later in life.