With the increasing incidence of obesity in children in this country, many parents are realizing that they need to help their child/children lose weight or at the very least, eat healthier. It is now estimated that one-third of children in the US are either overweight or obese. A parent, especially in the early years of the child’s life, has a big influence on his/her health habits. Here are a few suggestions to get started to make sure your children have the best chance of maintaining a healthy food intake.
One of the first things that can be done is having nutritious foods available for meals and snacks. If it is fruits and vegetables, make sure they are clean and ready to go. Take a look in the cupboards and refrigerator/freezer and get rid of the “empty calorie” foods. Discuss this change as a family so that everyone is eating better.
The second focus should be on meal planning. With our “grab and go” society, many times mealtimes have been a thing of the past. The food choices are high calorie, high fat or sugar options. Children are learning that this is the “normal” meal selection. Again, as a family, look at the schedule for the week and see if healthier meals can be planned. Try to have some meals when the family can actually share the time together!
A recent study was published in the journal Obesity where it was found that obese children were most likely to lose weight if their parents did it at the same time. The researchers from UC San Diego and the University of Minnesota studied children ages 8-12 and who were either overweight or obese. The researchers found that when the parents slimmed down, the children did lose weight as well. It was concluded that doctors should encourage parents to lose weight to help their overweight or obese child.
So there are some things that can be done to start your child on the right track. It begins at home having a healthy food environment coupled with increased activity! Parents can serve as role models and improve their own nutrition and lose weight if needed. The whole family will benefit as well!