The US Senate has declared September Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Unfortunately, as America’s portion sizes have gotten bigger, so have our kids.
We are only just beginning to understand the long-term implications of childhood obesity, as we are seeing serious health consequences develop, as a direct result of obesity.
Michelle Obama has taken initiative with her “Let’s Move” fitness campaign for kids. As First Lady, she is in the unique position to both increase awareness and raise incentives to help the next generation think about food and fitness in a different light and she has fully embraced her commitment to this project.
Some statistics have shown more than 23 million of our kids and teens now overweight or obese, so it is clear we have a serious problem to tackle. For the first time in history, America’s children may have a lower life expectancy than their parents. Asthma, diabetes, hypertension, certain cancers, and heart disease are all frightening complications our kids could face if we cannot turn the obesity trend around. We are already seeing an increase in the number of children taking medications to deal with chronic conditions and even this does not even take into account the mental health ramifications of kids growing up overweight. Low self-esteem, eating disorders, and depression can plague obese children for a lifetime.
The latest sobering evidence suggests obese children may enter puberty at a younger age, putting them at risk for high risk sexual behaviors sooner. Girls who develop earlier could be at greater risk for developing breast cancer later in life, as well. The good is, we can stop this ticking time bomb, because it is never too late to make positive changes in our homes and each of us has the power to take action on this. Even minor healthy choices can mean major gains for a healthier family.
Healthy Habits for Healthy Kids:
Keep track of your children’s access to media. You may be surprised to learn just how many hours they are logging in front of the television, computer, and video games. Commit to cutting back the time spent engaged in these outlets each week and encourage more physical and imaginative play. It recently occurred to me that my own kids were watching too many Saturday morning cartoons. I justified it, their only day of the week for television, but before I knew it, that Saturday indulgence became a three hour block of sedentary time!
Stock your Kitchen with Healthful Items
If healthy foods are readily available for your family, they will be more likely to accept and eat them. Cut up fresh veggies and fruits, and provide raw nuts, or wholegrain crackers for quick and easy healthy snacking. Prepackage healthy choices in small re-closeable bags for quick, on-the-go snacks.
Cut out Sugary Drinks
Making water your family’s mainstay is an easy way to limit empty calories in the form of soda, juice, and sports drinks.
Try adding one Active Family Outing a Week
Increase your togetherness and do something healthy by taking a walk together after dinner, or riding bikes together on the weekends.
Watch your Kids’ Treat Intake
Sugar consumption begets more sugar consumption. It is highly addictive.
Severely limit Trips to the Drive-Through
Schedules are hectic and you are busy! High in fat, cholesterol, preservatives, and sodium, fast food comes with a hefty price tag when it comes to health. Try to plan your meals in advance and freeze some for a quick dinner option.
Encourage your children to move at least 30 every day
An impromptu game of tag in the park, a few laps around the block, or time spent riding bikes can mean fun and fitness for kids.
Many Well-intentioned Parents are Simply Misinformed
The best chance for success we can give our kids is to be proactive parents with their dietary and exercise habits, in addition to implementing these habits ourselves, so we are both positive and believable role models for our kids. Our awareness, involvement, and guidance are imperative to help them make positive choices that will hopefully last them for a long and healthy lifetime.