Childhood Obesity – Are we losing the battle?

„Genetics loads the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger”  is one of my favorite quotes because it is so true. No matter how old we are, our lifestyles will affect us. We need to help our children to develop healthy habits and a love for exercise and sports.

Obesity among children and young adults had increased between 26-41 percent among the age groups since 1999. Among the factors that the American Psychological Association considers contributing to this obesogenic environment is an increase in:

  • fast-food and full-service restaurants
  • families dining out
  • the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup, especially in soft drinks and juices
  • decrease in physical activity – more driving and less biking around or walking
  • more time spent in front of the screens and less time spent playing outside

With these factors on our minds, we can change a few habits of our family and our children. You don’t have to focus on weight loss (unless it was the doctor’s recommendation) because children’s bodies are developing. Restricting their calorie intake can result in them not getting enough vitamins, minerals, and energy they need for proper growth. Instead, here are a few things you can focus on to help them develop a healthy relationship with food and exercise.

Provide nutritious foods

Healthy, balanced meals are key for proper nutrition. Teach them the importance of eating nutrient-rich food, like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean meats, and fish. Involve them in the process of preparing dinner as many times as you can. Let them „play around in the kitchen.” This will help them develop smart eating habits. They are more likely to eat their dinner if they helped you prepare it.

Get them up and moving

Don’t let them spend entire days glued to the television. They need to get their energy out, involve themselves in sports, or go on family hikes. In the afternoons, go outside and play with them. Children try to mimic our habits. If they see us moving around and doing different kinds of sports, they will want to be involved.

Turn off the TV while eating

Try not to let them snack in front of the TV every time they watch it. It can lead to overeating. Research has shown that the more television children watch, the more likely they are to gain extra pounds. Try to make dinners a family meal around the dinner table. 

Teach healthy habits

When children learn about planning meals, shopping for healthy foods, and preparing nutritious dishes, they’ll be developing healthy habits that may last them a lifetime. 

I know that it can be tough for busy parents to keep all of this in mind. Even if you start to implement cooking with them once every two weeks or get them off the couch two times a week, it will start to change their habits. Maybe next time they will decide to go and play outside instead of watching a movie, or they will go to the kitchen to help you prepare dinner. Every little change counts and helps them to make healthier choices. Also, you have to remember that nobody is perfect, and nobody can get it right every day.

Article: Hanna Taller