The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. Michelle Obama, who is leading the movement to end childhood obesity, has gone so far as to say that childhood obesity is a national security threat, as one in four young people are unqualified for military service because of their weight.
It is crucial to the health of our families, communities and nation that we take childhood health seriously. Children who are obese now will have health problems in the future and will be at risk to develop heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer and osteoarthritis.
In our last post discussing childhood health, we looked at ways to get kids moving and burning calories. After all, the CDC states that being overweight or obese is the result of “caloric imbalance”—too few calories burned for the amount of calories consumed. It’s no surprise that the foods children eat are tied to their health.
But how can parents make the right choices for their children? Often, this begins with parents making the best food decisions for themselves since children learn by example. Eliminating junk food from the house limits unhealthy eating for children and parents alike.
Parents should consider the lessons they are inadvertently teaching their children about food when the family is dining together. For example, the “clean your plate” approach to a child’s meal may give a skewed view of what it means to be “full” and it teaches nothing about portion control. Also, the habit of rewarding children with snacks or dessert when they have finished their vegetables or have done something good can lead to a misunderstanding of when to eat sweets.
There are many great online tools available to parents who are looking to get their families eating healthy foods.
LetsMove.gov has resources for parents, children, schools and more. The parent portal contains a downloadable action plan for families. It also includes tips for healthy snacks, suggestions for increasing physical activity and ways to reduce screen time.
ChooseMyPlate.gov has an encyclopedia of information around healthy eating, cooking and grocery shopping. Learn how to eat healthy on a budget, get sample recipes and menus and even watch informational videos.
SuperTracker can help families track not only their food intake but also the amount of physical activity they engage in every day. This could be completed frequently as a family, especially if the family has older children, so as to show the importance of balancing caloric intake with calories burned.
Do you have tips for incorporating healthy eating into family life? What are some ways you demonstrate balanced eating and exercise to the children in your family?