Obesity is a major epidemic in the U.S. today. Approximately two-thirds of adults and 1 in 3 of our children are overweight or obese. As children become increasingly overweight, their risk of developing adult diseases like metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea, orthopedic disorders, and even hypertension and heart disease also increases.
The sad fact is that even with parents’ vigilance most kids continue to be faced with too many unhealthy options every day when it comes to food — from fried foods in the school cafeteria and chips and candy in the vending machines to the endless temptations of fast-food chains everywhere they go.
And with recess and gym classes being cut from many schools, many kids aren’t getting enough exercise either. The lack of exercise combined with the rising use of computers, video games, and the TV, has basically caused kids to stop moving.
All adults are encouraged to inspire children to stay active and make healthy food choices most of the time. Here are a few starters:
involved with school meals.
If the cafeteria at your kids’ school still serves dishes like fried chicken
nuggets, pizza, and french fries on a regular basis, try to work with the PTA
and school board to make some changes to the menu. This can take some time (and
you’ll need the help of other parents), so in the meantime your kids will be
better off if you pack a healthy homemade lunch, filled with fiber-rich,
nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, 100% whole-grain bread for sandwiches
made with lean meats (or no-sugar-added natural peanut butter and sugar-free
jelly or jam), along with low-fat milk as a beverage. If your children’s school
has eliminated time for exercise, then it’s especially important for you to
make sure your kids get some exercise at home. Take them on a walk (with the
dog if you have one), play games with them outdoors, invite their friends over
for playdates, or motivate them to participate in after-school sports through
the “Y” or other organizations.
your children to new things.
Whether it's a new healthy food or a new get-moving after-school activity, kids
need variety. Regularly providing them with a range of new good-for-you foods
for meals and snacks and coming up with fun new ways to keep them fit will
automatically improve their health over time. Keep in mind that children who
lack body confidence may be slow to adopt exercise. You may need to expose them
to many different forms of fitness before they find an activity that they feel
comfortable doing. Motivation to change has to come from within, but gentle
coaxing can be useful.
- Set a good example. Parents are their kids' primary role models. Children learn what to eat and how to exercise from watching what their parents do, and statistics show that overweight parents are more likely to raise overweight children. So, if you’re already following the South Beach Diet lifestyle to lose weight and stay fit, you’re doing the right thing! Since you are enjoying a variety of highly nutritious foods and exercising on a regular basis, you’re already setting a good example and hopefully teaching your children about how to be healthier, too.