October 8, 2014

More than 1/3 of American adults are considered obese so it’s no surprise that the same statistic holds true for our children. That’s right, more than 1/3 of American children are overweight and those rates are increasing.

Sadly, overweight and obese children face a host of health issues including asthma, diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea and more. Not only do they face dangerous health issues, but let’s admit it, social issues as well.

What’s most devastating is that most times this is preventable, and the blame often falls on the parents. As the CEO of the household we make decisions on what we buy, what and how much we feed our children, and how much activity they get on an everyday basis.

It’s an uphill battle for busy parents trying to raise children in a world dominated by immediate gratification, fast food, packaged foods, marketing, electronic devices and time.

Recently, there has been a societal shift to help address the issue. First Lady Michelle Obama has championed the Let’s Move initiative. There has been a movement toward healthier school lunches and soda bans. And I have personally seen fast food joints add healthier options to their menus.

The social media movement has also taken the issue by storm in shocking public service messages. One by the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta introduces us to the lifestyle of obese Jim who has a heart attack and lands in the emergency room. This one shows the impacts of sodas and sugary drinks on a cartoon family of bears as they face the debilitating effects of diabetes. Although shocking, these raise the awareness that obesity is a complex lifestyle issue.

But getting healthy doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated, and there are some basic tips that we as parents can implement to ensure that our children are not facing the same reality.

Here are some simple ways to keep them active and healthy through every stage:

Get them moving:

  • Tummy time for babies helps develop the muscles needed to crawl and walk. Plus this helps reduce the flat head effect.
  • Preschoolers: Give them 60 minutes of structured and 60 minutes of unstructured playtime. Play Red Rover, Dance the Hokey Pokey and more.
  • Elementary school: 1 hour of physical activity a day can include tag, riding a bike, swimming, running, walking, recess, playground play, etc.
  • Highschoolers should participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day including cardiovascular and muscle strengthening activities.
  • Avoid the TV. Children under 2 should not watch TV.

Healthy foods and healthy portions

  1. Sodas and sugary beverages are bad for your health. Serve your family milk and water to maintain a healthy diet.
  2. Fruits and veggies should make up half of your plate. Check out the new USDA recommendations on ChooseMyplate.gov. This replaces the old food guide pyramid.
  3. Serving sizes for toddlers should be about ¼ of what an adult eats.
  4. Eat a rainbow of different colorful fruits and veggies.

Eating healthy on a budget

  1. Shop around the outside of the grocery store for healthier and cheaper options.
  2. Canned and frozen foods can be a good alternative, as long as they are not sitting in sugary syrup.
  3. Avoid pre-packaged, processed foods.
  4. Use coupons or join your favorite store’s loyalty program to save at the register.
  5. Buy in bulk or at a discount store.
  6. Wednesday nights are considered the best time to shop because of new sales.
  7. Take healthy snacks on the go to avoid that trip to the fast food joint.