Just as you would teach your kids to tie their shoes, brush their teeth and clean their room, teaching them healthy eating habits goes hand-in-hand, says Colleen Furey, a clinical psychologist with Mercy Health.
“First and foremost, parents should be mindful of how the entire home is eating,” Furey says. “The solution to childhood obesity lies within the family, not just the child.”
If the pantry is stocked with candy, chips and soda galore, more than likely that is what kids will turn to. Therefore, following the “out of sight, out of mind” motto is key.
“A child is unlikely to be compliant with changes to their own diet,” she says.
Now with school in session, it’s important that we teach our kids to choose healthy options in the lunch line, too, says Registered Dietician, Maggie Huey, with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center.
“Parents have less control at school than they do at home,” she says. “Setting this good example and exposing children to balanced plates with a variety of foods at home will encourage improved choices at school.”
Eating healthier and packing healthy lunches can actually be fun:
- Try new recipes together
- Make mealtime fun and interactive
- Have kids help choose healthy foods they like at the grocery store
- Do 10 -15 minutes of movement per day such as taking an evening walk together after school or on non-sports days, or turning on music and dancing in the kitchen
- Try a YouTube aerobics video
Experiment with different smoothie recipes of your own creation with whatever fruits and veggies you have laying around and pack a healthy lunch together.
“One concrete way a family can make change in their eating habits is a +1/-1 strategy,” says Furey. “You add something healthy, and take away something less healthy. For example, we are going to add a walk around the neighborhood five days per week and stop drinking soda.”
Limiting screen time will also facilitate more physical activity and discourage mindless eating, she continues. Kids will follow your example – if you put forth effort in eating healthier, so will they! Rachael Doll, FNP at Mercy Health, says 5-2-1-0 is a great daily rule-of-thumb to follow for an easy, fun countdown to a healthier lifestyle:
- 5 – Eat at least five fruit or vegetable servings a day
- 2 – Limit screen time to less than two hours a day
- 1 – Get at least one hour of physical activity a day
- 0 – Get zero calories from drinks
Kids and Obesity
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the childhood obesity rate has tripled since the 1970s, says Doll. Currently, 19.3 percent of kids ages 2 – 19 are obese. One big reason for kids to be at a healthy weight is because obesity can lead to multiple chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes (currently more than 5,000 kids ages 2-19 years old are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes), asthma, sleep apnea, liver disease, metabolic syndrome and more. And the younger they develop these health conditions, the more likely it will lead to chronic diseases and a scary road ahead.
Taking baby steps will help encourage kids to create concrete habits. Also remember, the focus is on your kids’ health and learning good habits and not on resorting to negative comments about body image or weight, says Furey.
ChopChop Kids | chopchopfamily.org
Cooking with Kids | cookingwithkids.org
Dr. Yum | doctoryum.org
GoNoodle | gonoodle.org + app
Eat & Move-O-Matic | app
Fooducate | app
Cosmic Kids Yoga | app + YouTube
NFL Play 60 | app
Sworkit Fitness & Workout | app
The 7 Minute Workout for Kids | app