Tips on helping to prevent childhood weight issues
If you are a parent, you know how important it is to do your personal best to make sure that your child grows up to be happy and healthy. Because most parents think that way, I am not surprised that one of the most commonly asked questions by parents who have heard about my severe weight issues during childhood is, “What can I do to help my child prevent weight problems now and in the future?”
There are several answers to this question, so here is some advice I hope every parent will try to follow.
Limit their screen time!
Children are spending more time than ever in front of the screen, whether watching television, talking with friends on the computer, texting on cell phones and playing video games. Did you know that some studies have shown that the more time a child spends watching TV, the more he or she eats? Research also indicates that the body slows its metabolism significantly when we are staring at a TV screen. So when you couple this with inactivity, your child is very likely to gain weight. Limiting screen time is the first step in avoiding future weight issues.
Make exercise fun!
Children should be getting at least 45 to 60 minutes of exercise a day and I feel that they really need to enjoy doing it. I think that kids need to have fun while exercising and shouldn’t feel like exercise is a punishment or a chore. While organized sports are great for some children, others may prefer dance classes, martial arts lessons or even a simple bike ride. Some children enjoy playing video games, so I hope you can encourage them to play games that get them moving. Again, some studies have shown these video games (though not as good as outdoor activity) can allow children to burn as many calories as they would going on a walk!
Help your child eat healthy
Try to fill your cupboards and refrigerator with healthy foods. Teach your children to like water because most juice – even 100 percent natural juice – is loaded with sugar and empty calories. A small glass on occasion is okay, but when your child is constantly sipping on a juice box, the empty calories add up VERY fast.
Send them to school with healthy food choices
Send your children to school with what you want them to eat and while you are at it, start teaching them about making healthy food choices. While you are packing their lunches, keep in mind that the 100-calorie snack packs are convenient, but just because they’re smaller portions doesn’t mean that they are healthy. Check the nutritional information on the package and you’ll see why!
Respect your child’s hunger!
We know that the days when our parents required us to clean our plates before leaving the table are long gone. We know now that we need to teach our children to eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full. As long as the pediatrician hasn’t said otherwise, parents should not force their children to eat.
Food is not a reward!
Also, please avoid using food as a reward for good behavior or to motivate a child. Find healthy alternatives such as stickers, a movie or a favorite game.
Be a good role model!
If children see parents crash dieting before a big event or digging into a pint of ice cream after a hard day, they’ll likely end up doing the same. That’s why it is so important that as adults we make healthy choices too and promote the right message. Avoid using weight as a measure of body image and instead emphasize that healthy eating is not about being thin; it’s about taking care of your body. I know that each of us enjoys an ice cream cone on a hot summer night or looks forward to a piece of cake at a birthday party. That’s okay, just not every day … the every day food should be good for you food.
Take a walk!
And lastly, my personal favorite tip of all, take a walk with your kids! It’s a great time to bond and you’ll also receive your ‘daily dose’ of physical activity! Walking works great because it not only helps prevent weight problems for your child, but for you as well.
What advice do you have for parents struggling to model good eating habits for their kids?
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Photo credit russteaches