One of the greatest health concerns parents face today is how to prevent childhood obesity. In less than 30 years, reports of childhood obesity have tripled. Obesity results when more calories are consumed than expended over a long period of time. Risk of obesity can be exacerbated by environmental, genetic and behavioral factors. As a parent, you can take careful measures to prevent obesity in your children by choosing healthy habits in everyday life.
Nutrition is the foundation for living a healthy, active lifestyle. Preparing a healthy breakfast for your children first thing in the morning will get them off to a great start. Eggs, fresh fruit, low sugar yogurt and whole grain toast will provide energy essential for a positive day. Let your kids help you when making breakfast choices so they understand the importance of food preparation.
Pack lunches for your children whenever possible to avoid foods that lead to obesity. This will help them to avoid high fat, high sugar foods found in the cafeteria. If you need to purchase lunch for your child at school, talk with him about the importance of making good choices. Most schools offer fresh salads and fruit, providing a great alternative to unhealthy snacks sold at the snack bar.
Dinner time should involve everyone. Kids should help prepare meals, set the table and be involved in the kitchen. When kids understand the importance of making a meal, they are more likely to appreciate what they eat. Serve a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables with every meal. Opt for carbohydrates loaded with fiber and nutrients such as brown rice, yams and baked potatoes.
Keeping your kids active year round will also help lower their risk of obesity. Enroll them in sports programs, clubs and participate in events such as 5K runs. If your child isn’t into team sports, develop active hobbies such as bike riding, skate boarding or running. Limit television time to one hour or less a day. Ask your child to pick a specific program she enjoys and allow that time of day for television viewing. Encourage other activities such as reading or imaginative play over television.
Children thrive in environments where they have boundaries. Planning family meals at specific times, allowing a certain amount of snacks each day and limiting treats to weekends will help them control excessive overeating habits that lead to dangerous weight gain. Kids eat when they are bored just like grownups do. If you give your children specific guidelines as to when they can eat and how much, you will limit their risk of overeating.
Also set boundaries when it comes to what your children eat. Provide choices of fruits and vegetables rather than processed snack foods. Save treats for the weekend after a healthy dinner. Don’t keep junk food in the house if at all possible. This will help to avoid temptation.
Leading by Example
Setting a positive example is one of the best ways to avoid childhood obesity. Get involved by making good food choices and staying active yourself. Take care of your own body and your children will see it as a lifestyle.