Written by: Amanda Henderson
With more than three million cases nationwide, the prevalence of childhood obesity in the United States is startling to say the least. One in five under 18 will climb the uphill battle of obesity, and many will become obese adults (33 percent of U.S. adults are obese). Not only is the risk for adult obesity greater, but childhood obesity also leads to an increased chance of high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. You can keep your children from becoming a statistic by helping them learn to make healthier choices when it comes to exercise and eating.
It seems in today’s world, it’s more common to see a child with a video game controller or a tablet in hand instead of a ball and a bat. The stagnation in their lives certainly plays a role in this country’s high childhood obesity rates. How do we get them motivated? For children, exercise doesn’t have to be going to the gym or to a class, the way many adults define fitness. Exercise can be something you do together as a family, like:
- Going on evening bike rides.
- Playing games outside like tag or hide-and-go-seek.
- Dancing to your favorite songs for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Walking the dog.
- Signing up for a 5K run that supports a local charity and training together.
Encouraging your children to be active can also help them develop abilities like leadership, strategic thinking, hand-eye coordination, and social skills. Kids can also cultivate teamwork skills and build their confidence by participating in cardio-heavy team sports like soccer, track, basketball, swimming, or cross country.
Choosing healthy meals
Our days are so packed—both for parents and kids—that sometimes we sacrifice nutrition for convenience when it comes to meal times. Between recitals and work, picking kids up and dropping them off, running the dog to the vet, and getting to work in time for a big client meeting, it’s no wonder so many American families feel they only have time to put fast food or processed meals on the table. However the family table is precisely the place where we need to be teaching our children healthy eating habits. You can help them learn to make healthy snack choices by replacing chips and candy with fruits and vegetables for snacks, like grapes and carrot sticks. Avoid the fast-food drive-through by choosing a day each week where the whole family prepares meals together for the week. This will not only teach your kids how to cook healthy, but also build skills like time management and planning ahead.
Some parents feel that eating healthy is just too much of a strain on their budget. Vegetables cost more and go bad quickly. Organic meats can sometimes cost twice as much as non-organic. If you’re savvy about it, better food choices don’t have to break the bank. Here are a few ways to eat healthy on a budget:
- Visit your community’s farmers market for better prices on local fruits and vegetables and organic meats.
- Plant a garden in your backyard and grow vegetables to bring to your family’s dinner table.
- Choose foods that are very filling and keep you feeling satisfied longer, like having whole-grain oatmeal for breakfast.
- Implement “Meatless Mondays” to not only bring healthier vegetarian options to the table, but also reduce the amount you spend on more expensive meat.
- Only purchase fruits and vegetables when they are in season and typically much less expensive.
- Clip coupons or take advantage of deals and specials that the store is running.
Encouraging your children to make healthy eating and exercise choices isn’t just a lifestyle change for them, but also for you. By setting a good example for your kids, you’re teaching them how to make healthy choices that can last a lifetime.