Currently, approximately one in three kids and teens in the United States is overweight or obese (that’s THREE TIMES the amount found thirty years ago) In today’s society, children are being diagnosed with chronic diseases which we use to associate with aging (heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, etc). Overweight and obese children not only suffer from these debilitating diseases, but they are also more susceptible to poor body image, self esteem issues, and even depression (If i remember correctly, kids can be quite the brutal bullies during those middle school years).
While there have been some strides in improving the school-wellness atmosphere, studies show that kids who eat lunch at school are more unhealthy and have a lower academic performance than those who do not.
Here are some scary statistics related to childhood obesity:
- The avg. dollar amount allocated for food cost per school lunch nationwide is barely $1 and 25 cents of that is spent on milk.
- The beef and poultry used in schools are held to lower standards than the standards used in fast-food chains like McDonald’s.
- Many schools no longer have access to free drinking water.
- The average American child eats less than one serving of fruit a day and anywhere from 30 to 160 pounds of sugar per year.
- 12% of American kids already have Type 2 Diabetes. The CDC predicts that 1 in 3 children born in the year 2000 will develop Type 2 Diabetes.
- 1 in 4 children take prescription medication daily for a chronic illness.
- The majority of the calories in the avg child’s diet come from sodas, sweets, salty snacks, and fast food.
It seems that as funding shortages continue to occur, the most important areas are being undermined. Food and physical education funding has been one of the first things to go. Luckily, in the past few years more and more healthy school initiatives are showing up in our districts. But, in my opinion these so called “healthy foods” that are now being served are nothing more than a processed couterpart. How hard would it be to have fresh local ingredients show up in all of our schools?
Here are some tips that you as a parent can use to steer clear of the childhood obesity epidemic:
- WATER! Replace sugar-sweetened beverages with WATER.
- 5210. Advocate the 5210 goal mentioned in my previous post. (Daily goal: 5 fruits/veggies, Limit screen time to 2 hours, 1 hour physical activity, 0 sugar sweetened beverages)
- Fruits and veggies! The more fruits and veggies you can get your child to eat, the better! Substituting unhealthy breakfast foods and snacks with a green smoothie is a great start! Also, making fresh veg/fruit juices works wonders…Try making Spinach-Orange juice or Carrot-Apple.
- Re-vamp your pantry. If you are eating optimally then your refrigerator (NOT your pantry) will hold the majority of your foods (Fruits, vegetables, maybe organic meats, etc) Throwing out the processed foods in your pantry will prevent your child from snacking on chips, cookies, etc.
- Be a role model. For the most part, kids look up to you as parents and want to mimic your actions. Thus, eating healthy and exercising will help encourage your child to do the same.
- Eat slowly. Teach your child to eat slowly and thoroughly chew their food. This will help them realize when they are truly full and not overeat.
- Reinforce. Sometimes kids reject new foods, but if you continue to introduce these foods they are more likely to try them. Also, presenting them in creative ways will help. Make a creative snack using fruits and vegetables or create a fun healthy cooking class for them to get involved.
- Never reward you child with food. This is never a good idea. This causes them to expect foods anytime they do something good and may also lead to cravings of these foods as adults
- Moderation is key. You do not want to completely restrict bad foods from your kids as it will most likely cause them to want them more. (Everyone wants what they can’t have) So, moderation. moderation. moderation!
- Increase physical activity. When I was a kid, we would be outside playing until our parents forced us to come inside. Unfortunately, today kids seem to be plastered to their video games, TVs, and computers. Encourage your child to get outside and play. At least 60 minutes of physical activity each day is clutch.
- Make it fun! Think of creative ways to encourage your child to eat healthy and exercise. You do not want to scold them on the topic. Just encourage and educate them on why adopting these habits will benefit their life overall. Pedometers are also a fun way for your child to keep up with how many steps they walk in a day. Make it a game where each child strives to get 12,000-15,000 steps in a day.
- Education. Providing your kids with the knowledge and skill set necessary for them to make their own positive choices is vital. I think if I had known the truth about what I was putting in my body at a young age, I would’ve made much wiser food choices. You want to trust that your child has the ability to fend for themselves in a world bombarded with junk food and unnatural ingredients!
- Get involved. Help initiate school wellness programs at your child’s school and demand changes for more healthy foods.
If these ads don’t get the point across, I don’t know what does: