With childhood obesity growing at exponential rates throughout the U.S., it has become imperative that parents begin to make proactive choices regarding their children’s diets and exercise habits. Because children do not have the knowledge or capacity to make informed choices regarding what foods they put in their body and when, or how much exercise they get each day, it is the parents’ responsibility to ensure the daily demands for both are met. This includes eating the right foods, providing recommended amounts of vitamins and nutrients and performing some kind of exercise 1 hour per day at the minimum. Getting your children on the right track and keeping them healthy does not need to be difficult if you are prepared to put in the effort to do so.
Eating the Right Foods
Your first objective should be to get your children eating the best foods for their growing bodies. You do not necessarily need to rely solely on the food pyramid created by the USDA, but it can be a great place to start if you are not familiar with daily recommended amounts of different nutrients and foods.
Basically, each meal should consist of three main ingredients: a protein source, such as beef or fish; a full serving of vegetables; and some sort of bulk food or grain food, such as bread or salad. Milk, water, or juice can be served as a beverage. The key is to not overload on any one food group but to balance each meal with a serving of each.
Snack time can be as dangerous as not eating balanced meals. Think about what is in your pantry or cupboard. Sugary or salty snacks such as cookies, chips, or pudding snacks should be kept only in minimal supply. You can replace these treats with celery sticks, carrot sticks, peanuts, raisins, or trail mix. Mixing your own kinds of trail mix can add a bit of variety to your snacks, making them more likely to be eaten happily. Corn flakes, raisins, peanuts, cashews, chocolate chips, or M&Ms work great in trail mixes and can be used interchangeably with each other.
Keeping a quiet tab of what your child is eating while slowly replacing your snack supply with healthier options will help to prevent your child from gaining excess weight.
Exercise, Exercise, Exercise!
Exercising daily can be fun and enjoyable for your children – and they don’t even need to realize they are doing it. Any active sport will get your child’s heart rate up enough to keep his metabolism working properly. Sign him up for a flag football team or a local soccer group. Even informal games played with friends and family will help. Encourage him to get a group of friends together to play a game of kickball or baseball.
Have a jump rope lying around? Jumping rope is a fantastic cardio exercise that is fun for kids of all ages. Encourage your child to play outside after school as much as possible, keeping him busy and away from electronic games that make his metabolism stagnant and his body inactive.
So many people underestimate the power of water when it comes to staying healthy. For children whose bodies are growing at an unbelievably fast rate, the daily consumption of water will help their bodies replenish their energy supply and keep them feeling awake and alert. Instead of offering a can of soda for a snack, try switching to water; even exchanging dinner time drinks with water will help. Provide him with a water bottle to bring to school and fill up whenever it is empty. Water cleans out bad germs and refreshes the body, encouraging it to work better and more efficiently, consequently keeping your child’s body burning fat and building muscle appropriately.
With just a few simple steps on your part, you can help prevent or minimize your child’s obesity problems by supplementing junk food with healthy snacks and encouraging him to play physical games, rather than watch TV or play video games. Your efforts need to reach beyond your child, however. You will need to adopt these changes as well, incorporating them into your natural daily habits. When it comes to your child’s health, settling for a carrot stick in exchange for a long and healthy life doesn’t seem so bad.