Many parents today
are concerned about childhood overweight & don’t want their children
to become a statistic in the obesity epidemic. Since weight issues are
a sensitive subject, parents need to be careful how they approach the
matter with their kids. Any weight management program for all but the
most severely overweight children needs to focus on healthy eating &
an active lifestyle rather than weight loss. The Coulee Region
Childhood Obesity Coalition has these tips to help you encourage
healthy eating habits & an active lifestyle with your children.
Be a good role model
It may sound simplistic but research shows
it is the most promising way for parents to encourage healthy eating
habits & an active lifestyle in their kids. Children imitate their
parents. If mom & dad eat lots of sweets and chips and drink several
bottles of pop each day, the kids will follow their example. Check
out the “Fit Kid Role Model” survey in our Healthy Lifestyle
tool kit to see how you fare as a role model for your kids.
Be active together
Limit screen time to less than 2 hours
each day and do things together as a family. Research suggests for
maintaining good health we need to be active for a total of 60 minutes
each day. You don’t however need to go for an hour walk or ride your
bike for an hour straight—this can be broken up into smaller pieces.
For instance, kids could walk for 15 minutes to school and back home
(total 30 minutes) then go for a 30 minute bike ride after dinner with
the family. Need ideas for how to get your kids moving? Check out
the Healthy Lifestyle Toolkit for ideas to activate your lifestyle!
Eat together as a family
Children eat an average of 1 in 4 meals
each day away from home. Restaurant meals are often larger and higher
in fat than those prepared at home. So try to sit down to meals
together, with the TV off, as often as you can. Not only will your
kids eat a better balance of healthy foods in portion sizes that are
more appropriate for them, but it will allow you to stay connected to
one another by giving you time to share your day & your thoughts.
Remember to keep the TV off during meals—when you watch TV you aren’t
talking to one another & you tend to eat more because you don’t pay
attention to what you’re doing or how full you are!
Stock your kitchen with healthy choices
Snacking on candy, ice cream, cookies and
salty snack foods can quickly add pounds to both your waistline and
your child’s. Since experts suggest that we emphasize plant based
foods in our diets Coalition members encourage families to stock their
pantries with whole grains, fruits and vegetables so healthy snacks
are readily available and its easy to quickly put together healthy
meals & snacks. At meal time, cover 3/4 of your plate with fruits,
vegetables, grains and beans leaving 1/4 for meat/fish or chicken. In
addition, stock your refrigerator with water, juice and fat free milk
rather than pop.
Avoid using food as either a reward or a
Rewarding kids with food teaches them that
there are “good” foods & “bad” foods. The foods often used as a
reward—candy, cookies and salty snack foods are looked on as “good” as
they are their reward for good behavior. Rather than using food for
good behavior try hugs, giving your undivided attention or the
opportunity to do something fun that they have wanted to do.
Involve kids in both meal planning & activity
Kids eat better and are more willing to
try new activities if they are involved in the planning. Depending on
their age let your kids help shop for food as well as prepare meals.
Let them decide one fruit they want to try this week or let them cut
up vegetables for the salad or toss the salad to combine ingredients.
As for encouraging an active lifestyle, try to set aside time each
week to be active as a family—then let each family member have a
chance at choosing what the family will do together.
Set goals & track your progress
Setting goals increases our commitment to
do something. So—set eating and activity goals as a family and or as
individuals. Maybe the family’s goal is to eat together once each day
or 3 times each week and your individual goal may be to eat a fruit or
vegetable with every meal. Once you set your goals—track your
progress so you can celebrate your successes!