According to the CDC, since 1970, the percentage of children with obesity has more than tripled. Nowadays, one in five school-aged children can be classified as obese.
You may be wondering, how do you know the difference between being overweight and obese? Well, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, obesity is “a condition characterized by the excessive accumulation and storage of fat in the body.” But, according to the CDC, overweight is defined as “having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors.” This means that someone could be classified as overweight if they have a lot of muscle because muscle weighs more than fat.
Children who are overweight or obese while they are young are more at risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, and even orthopedic problems that prevent them from playing as kids should. If your child’s weight issue is not tackled while they’re young they’re more likely to have problems with their weight as an adult.
Here is a list of tips that will help your child live a full and healthy life:
1. Start during pregnancy
Studies show, if you gain an excessive amount of weight while pregnant, you can put your baby at risk for being overweight as a child. If you teach your child healthy eating habits before they even start school, that will encourage them to live a healthy life when they are older.
2. Be a good role model
If your children see you eating healthily and exercising, they are more likely to follow in your footsteps. Forcing children to eat vegetables is not going to make them like it any more than they already do, which is why you need to start feeding them fruits and vegetables as young as possible so they grow up eating them. If you eat a lot of vegetables in front of your children and they see you enjoying it, they’re more likely to enjoy eating them as well. Even if you hate working out or running, don’t let your children know, or else they will not like it either.
3. Avoid technology
Technology is a huge factor in childhood obesity due to the time children spend on the phone texting, on Facebook, watching tv, etc. If you limit the amount of time your children can use technology, they’re more likely to stay active.
4. Fiber, fiber, and more fiber!
Foods that are rich in fiber need to be more present in children’s diets. Fiber-rich foods are low in calories and keep your child feeling full longer than usual, which means they won’t be constantly looking for something to snack on in your pantry. These foods include beans, whole grains, peas, nuts, seeds, and many more. According to the USDA’s Choose My Plate image, when serving meals you should include 1/2 fruits and vegetables, 1/4 grains, and 1/4 protein.
5. Experiment with different foods
If your child is a picky eater, you should try to mix it up with fruits and vegetables. Try different ways to cook vegetables, like grilled, roasted, or dehydrated. If your child doesn’t like something you put in one of the meals you make, try to find a substitution or different ways to serve the foods he/she does like. If your child doesn’t seem to like the basic fruits and veggies try some that are a little outside of the ordinary like dragonfruit etc.
6. Get your kids out of the house
Children need to get at least an hour of physical activity every day. Sometimes it can be hard to find time for your children to play outside especially in between school days and after-school activities, homework, etc. If it’s raining outside, you can always set up a fitness-based scavenger hunt where your child has to do push-ups every time he/she finds another item or you can set up an obstacle course inside the house.
7. Exercise together
If you are not active around your children, then more than likely your children will not want to be either. You need to make sure to get your kids to go on a walk with you or do some kind of activity like going to the playground, going on a bike ride, or playing catch in the backyard. If this is not possible due to your work schedule then you should set up a rotation with the other parents in the neighborhood for supervising playtime.
8. Let your kids be apart of the decision-making
If you want your children to have an open mind about trying new food, you should bring them to the grocery store and let them pick out a new fruit or vegetable they would like to try. Another great way to get your children involved is to plant fruits and vegetables in a garden and they can help you monitor their growth.
9. Healthy snacking
Instead of letting your children eat chips or pretzels when they want a snack, fill the gaps in between meals with healthier options like fruits and vegetables with some protein or some carbs, and make sure to keep the snacks small. Children that eat big snacks later in the day may not be hungry for dinner, which means they won’t eat all of their food causing them to get a case of the munchies late at night.
10. Family meals
Recent studies published in the journal Pediatrics claims that children and teenagers who eat family meals together at least 3 times per week were 12% less likely to be overweight. Families that eat together are also more likely to be eating healthier meals and less likely to have disordered eating habits. If your work schedule does not allow you to have family meals for dinner, having breakfast together is a good replacement.
If you start your children on the right path to healthy eating at a young age, they are less likely to develop health-related issues later in life. When these issues begin developing, your children are more than likely going to need long-term care. If you want to learn more about this, check out LTC Tree’s article that connects obesity to long-term care.