Childhood obesity is a serious issue often overlooked in this country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity rates have increased by more than 10 percent in the past 30 years, while the rates in teenagers have quadrupled in the same period.
There are several reasons why these numbers have increased. In America, cheap, highly accessible, nutrient-deficient foods have become more prevalent. In fact, a National Center for Health Statistics study found that more than a third of American children eat fast food every day.
We are also living in a different world where both parents are working. In the 1940s, only 10 percent of mothers held jobs. Today, women make up half of the workforce. With both parents working full-time or part-time jobs, it can be easy to swap health for convenience.
Stock up on easy-to-pack fruits
To get the vitamins and minerals fruit provide, opt for quick-grab options. Bananas, apples, peaches, pears, and more are examples of healthy foods that travel easy. They need no preparation and can be tossed into a lunch box or backpack on their own. (Just remember to wash your apples!) For picky kids who prefer their apples sliced, you can find pouches of pre-sliced apples at the grocery store.
Encourage outdoor time
Television and video games are fun, but they are rooted in a sedentary lifestyle. Balance indoor and outdoor activities by allowing one hour of TV and/or fun outdoor video games for every hour outside (weather permitting, of course.) Surprise your child with a new soccer ball, sidewalk chalk, water toys, etc., so they associate the outdoors with fun and exciting play. Make time to go outdoors with them or allow them to invite friends over for group play.
Get your kid involved in sports
It’s no surprise that youth sports offer tons of benefits. Not only do kids get the exercise benefits of sports, they learn how to work with others and how to display good sportsmanship. Studies have shown kids who participate in team sports earn better grades and are more likely to be accepted into college.
Limit fast food consumption
Fast food chains might be an easy and cheap solution to meals when you’re in a time crunch, but we don’t need to go into how bad they are. (We know you already know.) You don’t have to take away fast food completely, but limit how many times a month you order from a restaurant.
Get junk food out of the house
Like fast food, junk food – options usually loaded with refined sugars, bad fats, and preservatives – is easy and convenient. The come pre-packaged and travel well. But for the amount of time it takes to put Oreos in a bag, you could fill that same bag with carrots, red peppers and celery. Snack smart. Stay away from the chips and cookies aisle completely so you won’t be tempted.
Be a role model
None of these tips matter unless you make wellness a priority in your own life. If your kids see you prioritizing fitness and health, they will be more likely to do the same. If they don’t see you leading by example, the message is it matters. The best solution to this is to do as much with your child as possible. Eat healthy foods with them, play outdoors, and include them in your favorite healthy activities. The more effort you put into a healthy lifestyle, your mini-me will do the same.
Modeling a healthy lifestyle for your child is a habit they will thank you for as an adult. Healthy children are more likely to become healthy adults, while obese children and adolescents are at a higher risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, various cancers, stroke, and osteoarthritis. If you’re looking to make a change in your family’s health, the time is now.