Something that is a new concern for our generation in America is childhood obesity. Being overweight in youth is a particular concern because it leads to a higher risk of disease and predisposition to Type II Diabetes specifically.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in America, and obesity can lead to more strain on the heart. Obesity at a young age means there will be more strain on the heart for a longer period of time. The good news is that there are ways to prevent childhood obesity, and we will discuss a few of those in this article such as activity, screen time, and nutritious meals.
1) Sports and fun activities
Sports are a fun way for kids to get their bodies moving. The competitive nature of sports gives incentive and motivation. There is such a wide variety of sports that can accommodate different ages and body shapes and sizes. There really is something for everyone!
Try to give your child access to a bunch of different activities so they can choose what they like. This will decrease the likelihood that your child will begin to dread exercise if it is more enjoyable for them. One of the biggest obstacles with staying physically fit is finding an enjoyable way to do it. There are so many other things that are like pulling teeth as a parent, so getting them to be active shouldn’t have to be one of them.
Here are a few ideas of less traditional sports for your child:
- Mountain biking
- Roller blading
- Jump roping
- Martial Arts
Most sports require a physical evaluation before the season starts. Another good resource is a sports physical therapist. Sports medicine provides an evaluation and can help improve performance or treat injuries if they occur. Being more active is good for the heart, but can also lead to more injuries.
It is great if being active gets your child outside, but even if they are just doing a yoga YouTube video in the living room it’s better than being sedentary.
2) Screen time boundaries
Screen time is the thief of body movement and outside time. Setting realistic screen time boundaries and following through with them is something that is much needed in our world today. Parents should realize that screen time is not going to go away, so it should be regulated, especially in young children.
An idea for screen time boundaries could be letting outside time earn them screen time. For example, one hour outside equals one hour of screen time. Alternatively, you could say that one hour of chores earns them one hour of screen time. Chores are a natural way to get the body moving while also being productive. It’s a win-win!
There are a lot of tools for parents to set limits on devices, and these limits make it easier for parents to enforce screen time boundaries. One because it ensures you won’t get busy and forget that you said only “10 more minutes.” Two because it gives the child something tangible besides your own words marking the boundary.
As mentioned earlier, screen time can be active too. Encourage your child to do a workout video, learn a new TikTok dance, do some calming stretches in the morning or before bed. Screen time can be a great tool, so get creative!
3) Nutritious meals and snacks
Before we jump into this section, I want to emphasize that it is important not to put kids on a restrictive diet of any kind unless recommended by a physician. Children are naturally intuitive eaters, and should have access to a wide variety of foods. However, it is important for the food they are offered to have necessary nutrients to fuel their active lifestyle.
Exposing children to nutritious meals and snacks allows them to learn what foods they like and dislike. Once they have tried something several times, they will be able to choose what healthy foods they enjoy eating and will choose them more often because they are familiar. Remember that it is important to not label foods as good or bad to avoid disordered eating behaviors.
A few ideas for providing nutritious meals and snacks include:
Vegetable or fruit trays are an easy way to give children access to a variety of nutritious foods. A tray can be set out for an hour or two allowing children to graze as they please and takes the pressure off of forcing them to eat fruits and veggies.
Fun or different presentation
If your children tend to reject “healthy” foods, then you could try presenting them in a unique way. For instance, placing some berries in a tackle box or serving vegetables with a fun sauce on the side for dipping, adding a less desirable food in a piece of sushi or a sandwich could increase the chances of them at least being willing to try it. Eating in a different environment, such as at the park for a picnic is also a fun change.
Theme meals for kids are really popular on social media platforms right now. Something like a Disney movie themed dinner could get your princess loving child to eat something they normally would not. A Harry Potter themed dinner could be enjoyed by everyone in the family! It’s even fun for parents too.
Regular check-ups are important for children and adults alike. We live in a society that is fatphobic. So, remember that just because your child is overweight does not mean that they are unhealthy and vice versa. If they are naturally thin, they still need to have nutritious snacks and an active lifestyle. Please share any tips that you have in the comments below!