We need to prevent childhood obesity. Childhood obesity is rising at an alarming rate all around the world. Poor nutrition and lack of exercise are the main culprits in obesity and other health problems in both children and adults. Follow these 17 bright ideas to help your child improve their diet and increase their physical activity to reduce their chances of acquiring weight-related health issues.
Switch to Low-Fat Milk and Cheese – Milk can be a healthy part of a child’s diet since it is packed with calcium and vitamin A but whole milk also contains saturated fat. A diet high in saturated fat can contribute to obesity and can negatively impact cardiovascular health. Try a slow transition from whole fat milk and cheeses to 2%, then 1% and then eventually fat free.
Swap Packet Treats for Fruit – Kids love those little packaged snacks but they are packed with several preservatives to keep them shelf-stable. One of the biggest preservatives used is sugar which is one of the biggest contributing ingredients in childhood obesity.
Ban Soft Drinks in the House – Soda offers absolutely no nutritional value. It is packed with empty calories and packs a walloping 39 grams of sugar in one can of cola. That is more sugar than recommended for a child to consume in an entire day! Since sugar converts to fat, soda should not be a part of a child’s diet and should be banned from your home indefinitely.
Serve Vegetables at Every Meal – Although many kids will put up a fight when you place vegetables on their plate, it is a fight worth fighting. Vegetables are packed with vital vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants that help keep the body healthy, and your child’s health simply can’t afford to skimp on this food group. Find a way to make vegetables a part of breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast may be a tricky one but you can try making a vegetable shake sweetened up with fruit. Your child may not even know it has vegetables in it!
Take a Daily Family Walk – Doctors recommend that children participate in exercise or physical activities every day for at least 60 minutes. Don’t rely on school physical education programs alone to provide this exercise. Make taking a family walk a part of your daily routine to help both you and your child reach your daily exercise requirement. After dinner is a great time to take a walk around your neighbourhood, get some fresh air and connect as a family.
Increase Fruit Intake by One – Like vegetables, fruits are packed with important vitamins and minerals but are easier to get kids to eat because they taste sweet. However, many children still don’t eat the recommended servings every day. Increase their fruit intake by adding one additional serving every day. This could be one piece of whole fruit or a cup of sliced fruit. Better yet, make your child’s after-dinner dessert a serving of fruit which will also limit their junk food intake.
Limit Video Game Time – While video games don’t have to be a bad thing, there is a link between video game usage and obesity. The problem here is that children become occupied playing video games while sitting in a chair or lying on a couch, and they don’t spend their free time doing more activities such as playing outside. To encourage active play time, set a daily limit on video game usage. For example, you can set a 30 minute limit a day or choose a time frame when kids can play video games such as from 6:30 p.m.-7:00 p.m. each night.
Sign Up at a Sports Club – Register your family at a local sports club that offers many activities and sports for your child to take part of. Organized sports, a running track and a swimming pool will all provide the physical exercise your child’s body needs.
Get Enough Sleep – Depending on your child’s age, they require anywhere between 8-12 hours of sleep every day. This may not sound like a direct part of maintaining a healthy weight but studies show a link between not getting enough sleep and obesity. Ensure kids get enough sleep by enforcing a bedtime and nap times if your child is still small.
Make Healthy Food More Interesting – Society makes healthy food sound boring, bland and void of anything exciting. Since colourful food with a variety of ingredients seem much more appealing, your child is more likely to eat it. Try choosing dishes with a colourful mix of vegetables such as peas, carrots and red peppers. Try mixing them into a traditional dish such as pasta that you know that your child loves.
Drink a Glass of Water with Every Meal – Water is vital for keeping the body fully hydrated and functioning properly. Children need between 3-10 glasses per day depending on their age and size, so help them reach this limit by serving a full glass with every meal. In addition to its health benefits, serving water is also a great way to keep your child from drinking soda or other sugary drinks along with their meals.
Have a Wrapper-Free Lunchbox – The healthiest foods don’t come in a wrapper so try and implement a wrapper-free lunch. Some healthier ideas for your child’s school lunch include a sandwich on whole wheat bread, whole fruit, freshly diced fruit in a cup, sliced vegetable sticks, cubed cheese and pita bread with hummus. For a drink, add in a bottle of water, milk or natural fruit juice with no added sugar.
Learn 1 Healthy Recipe a Month – Since eating the same meals can get boring, try to learn one new healthy recipe every month that you make together. Let your child choose one recipe based out of three that you pre-select so they feel excited about the meal. Then together as a family, cook the meal for the first time. If your child is a part of preparing the meal, they will be more apt to eat it.
Reduce Television Time – Just like video games, being glued to the television screen prevents kids from being active. Limit television time to certain times of the day and encourage your child to engage in more active activities. Resist placing a television in your child’s room so you can better monitor their screen time.
Talk about Importance of Nutrition and Health – Instead of simply forbidding unhealthy food, explain to your child what makes food unhealthy and why it is so bad for their bodies. If you make food taboo without explaining why, your child will just want to eat it more and may even hide these foods from you. By explaining how food can keep them healthy now and in the future, your child will begin to understand the importance of choosing the right foods for themselves.
Ban Snack Foods 1 Day Per Week – Choose one day a week to ban eating any junk food in your home. Make it a game that the whole family can participate in to make it fun. For example, make Wednesday a no snack food day and whoever succeeds in being snack food-free gets to choose a board game to play.
Swap 1 Car Ride with 1 Bike Ride – Increase daily physical activity by having your child ride their bike someplace you usually drive them (age allowing). For example, they can their bike to school if it is just a few blocks away. If they are too young to go alone, you can follow behind them on your own bike.