Progress has been made in lowering the statistics of childhood obesity but it remains a significant problem. Over 17% of all children ages 6 to 19 are overweight. While there has been a small reduction in overall childhood obesity, there has also been a rise in children who are considered to be morbidly obese. Childhood obesity has been linked to everything from diabetes to asthma and learning difficulties, mood disorders and addiction tendency, plus new studies show that there may be a correlation between childhood obesity and early adult cancers.
Why are our children obese?
Childhood obesity is not just an American problem, but a problem in all industrialized nations. As economies improve, there is less time for home meals and more money is spent on the convenience of prepared foods. Prepared food has much higher rates of sodium, fats, sugars and is served in larger portions than should be consumed to maintain a healthy body weight. Also, in industrialized nations, the nature of childhood play changes from one that is based in physical activity, to one that is based in the passive entertainments of video games and computers.
How to help without creating even more problems
In the United Kingdom, a recent survey showed that while initiatives to reduce childhood obesity had been moderately successful, they had created a different problem – a rise in childhood eating disorders and mood disorders. There are ways to help your children avoid childhood obesity that don’t make food the enemy or create a low self-esteem. Here are 8 of the best ways to help your child stay healthy.
1. Show, don’t tell
Children copy what they see adults do. Don’t just tell your child how to eat healthy, do it yourself so they can see you making the right choices in types of food and the amounts that you eat. Avoid rewarding behavior or providing consolation through foods like ice creams and pastas. Find another way to make good grades special or to console your child after their first dating breakup.
2. Make the beginning important
A balanced breakfast sets the tone for the day in the amount of energy a child has and what they will be drawn to eat. Eating sugary things or breakfasts with a lot of carbs creates a craving for these items that will last throughout the day. Keep it simple and focused on proteins and fruits.
3. Make water fun
Drinking water can help curb appetites and serve as a snack. Plain water is boring, but a lot of the flavored waters on the market are loaded with sugars and additives. Try adding a slice of lemon or lime to water for added flavor.
4. Manage servings
A good rule of thumb is to never eat any one thing that is larger than the palm of your hand and to not go for seconds until after 20 minutes has passed from the first serving. It takes the body about 20 minutes to get the signal from Leptin that it is full.
5. Get active
Be the bad guy and put down some limits on the amount of time spent on the computer or playing video games. If you live in an area where sending your child outside to play is not doable, create a play area in the house that features soft sport toys or get one of the motion activated video games that feature dancing.
6. Get off the sugar train
Mind the sugar. Remember that almost all prepared foods have sugars added in them already so don’t allow your child to add more. It is important to know that if the body consumes sugar, it wants more. Don’t set up that craving.
7. Ban Soda
There is not one good reason for a child to drink soda. Even sugar free sodas are not a good idea as the artificial sweeteners reduce the ability to taste what is sweet so the child will then add three times as much sugar elsewhere in their diet to get the same sugar taste as the artificial sweetener.
8. Have set meal and snack times
Get consistent about meal and snack times so your child never feels as if they are so hungry they are starving. The more consistent the meal and snack time, the better able your child will learn how to manage their diet to avoid hunger.