Numerous private and government initiatives are in place to help turn the tide on child obesity, and now schools are doing more to educate kids about health and nutrition. Yet experts still warn it could take decades before any significant improvement is achieved.
Meanwhile, 25 million kids today are overweight or obese, and for many the future may hold terrible health consequences. Already, serious medical conditions once limited to adults, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and even cancer, are more prevalent among children and teens, and health officials predict this generation of overfed and sedentary kids will live shorter, unhealthier lives than their parents.
Obesity isn’t inevitable – indeed it’s preventable. Parents have the ability (and responsibility) to put their children on a healthy path by nurturing healthy values and habits at home.
Be a role model
You can’t expect your children to eat carrots if you are eating French fries. Teach healthy eating and lifestyle by example.
Let kids help you cook
Rather than shoo kids away invite them into the kitchen to help prepare meals. Children learn best when they participate, and all kinds of lessons can be taught around age-appropriate duties, such as measuring, mixing and serving portions.
Grocery shop together
Asking your child’s help with grocery lists and shopping not only promotes confidence it’s a low-key way to talk about healthy eating and food choices.
Eat as a family
Studies have shown that when families dine together they tend to eat more vegetables and fruits, and younger children who eat dinner regularly with their family are less prone to becoming overweight.
Teach portion control
Parents and kids alike need to be clear about proper food portions. Young children can lean to self-portion using plastic containers, and by measuring with their hand and fingers. Keep in mind that children lose any sense of portions when they are allowed to eat food freely from its original packaging.
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a nationally known registered dietitian based in New York and the creator of a proprietary high-fiber nutrition program for weight loss, wellness and for treating various medical conditions. Tanya authored the bestselling weight loss book The F-Factor Diet, and she is the first dietitian with a national line of high-fiber foods, which are sold under the F-Factor name. Become a fan of Tanya on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn, and visit her website Ffactor.com.