According to the American Heart Association, one in three American kids is overweight. Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared childhood obesity among the top health crises in the USA after drugs and smoking. Still other sources claim that our obesity rate has risen dramatically over the past decade. Save the Children found that the USA has failed to create a safe and healthy environment for kids, given the alarming obesity rate in the nation.
Just by looking around, you can easily spot obese children—maybe your child is one of them. Obese children are prone to major health risks, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, bone and joint problems, and even several types of cancer. In addition to risking health problems, overweight children are teased, bullied, and kept out of the team activities, leading to sadness, low self-esteem, inferiority complexes, and depression.
Some of the main causes of child obesity:
- Unhealthy diet—like junk food, soda, snacking, and sugary drinks
- Lack of physical activity
- Medical conditions, like hypothyroidism
- Inadequate sleep
By addressing the causes listed above, your child can achieve and maintain a healthy weight. There are simple strategies to attain that goal.
Promote Healthy Eating Habits:
Change your child’s unhealthy habits before they become a comfortable routine. Simply bring healthy foods into your home while keeping unhealthy food out. In this way, you can encourage healthy eating habits, even for the pickiest children. Undertake these changes to ensure your child follows a healthy diet:
- Minimize shopping for unhealthy food in bulk
- Add lean meats, fish, poultry and lentils for protein
- Encourage your child to drink 8-10 glasses of water a day
- Warn kids about beverages high in sugar
Limit Their Consumption of Junk Food:
Junk foods load children with calories, developing excessive fat in the body, which in turn leads to weight gain in children. It can be hard to keep the child away from them, as tempting junk food is everywhere. Follow these steps to reduce your child’s junk food intake:
- Don’t ban junk food all at once.
- Stop bringing junk foods into the home. This way, your kids don’t have access to them.
- Make delicious meals at home.
- Stop giving them unhealthy snacks/beverages as a reward.
- Keep healthy snacks readily available.
Go for Healthy “Substitutes”:
- Replace fatty meats with lean protein and seafood.
- Replace butter and margarine with olive oil and coconut oil.
- Replace croutons with walnuts in salads.
Set an Example:
To make the above-mentioned habits easy for your child to implement, set an example by following a healthy diet while avoiding junk food yourself. That will encourage your child to eat healthily and imitate and follow the behavior of elders, especially parents.
Dine with your child and keep meals and snacks in balanced portions; have plenty of green veggies and fresh fruits; eat calorie-rich desserts and snacks in moderation. Eat at home and pack healthy lunches in front of your child who is going off to school or on a picnic. When eating out, choose the restaurant that provides healthy meals.
Your healthy eating habits will be transferred to your child over time, helping him or her maintain a healthy weight.
Educate Your Children about Nutrition:
Children can make good choices if they have knowledge of nutrition and healthy food. They must know the effect of the food they are consuming. However, teaching them to eat healthy can be complicated if it involves too many details. Instead, you can convey your message in a playful way so that learning about healthy eating sounds like fun to them rather than a lecture.
- At the grocery store, tell them the benefits of green veggies.
- Use picture books that provide information about nutrition and healthy eating in the story line. Discuss with them what they read.
- Encourage them to play smartphone games, like Healthy Food Monsters, Healthy Heroes, and Healthy Eating with Diana.
Keep Them Moving:
Besides creating a healthy meal plan, encourage your child to work out daily. Exercise like running, jumping, swimming and playing soccer not only burns fat, but also makes their muscles strong. Your kids may not be interested at first in working out, but that doesn’t mean you can’t convince them. Tell them the benefits of physical activities, or play games involving headstands, jump rope, or animal races in your backyard. Allow them to watch no more than two hours of T.V. per day.
These are the strategies you can follow to battle childhood obesity. Blend these steps with the right kinds of support, encouragement, and positive role modeling for better implementation.