Many serious child health issues have surfaced in recent years. Obesity is one of the health problems spiraling out of control.
Obesity is also the root cause of many diseases afflicting children and teens. The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion reports, “Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years.” The escalation of obesity is impacting children’s health negatively. Increases in heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory problems among children are reaching epidemic proportions.
Childhood obesity is directly related to family eating and exercise habits. Parental participation is essential in all efforts to teach children proper nutritional habits. Because children mimic adults, it’s important for parents to set a good example. The following tips will help you design a healthy eating plan for the whole family.
1. Cook from Scratch
If you have never cooked meals from scratch, now is the time to learn. Not only will you realise health benefits almost immediately, but you will also experience a substantial savings in food costs. Buy a cookbook focused on healthy meals. Many provide nutritional information with each recipe. Check out some of the healthy recipe websites with meal ideas geared for children. Make mealtime a family affair by including children in the weekly meal planning.
2. Cook Only What You Need
When parents control food portions, good eating habits are developed. Place the food on the plate before serving. Do not serve “family style” meals where children can take as much, or as little, as they want. When you serve the food on the plate, you can be sure each child gets a well-balanced meal.
3. Never Use Dessert as a Reward
When parents promise a special “dessert bribe” for eating a healthy meal, they are making a big mistake. The child might think they have to eat boring food in order to be rewarded with good-tasting food. This plants the idea that desserts are better than regular food. Children need to be taught about the facts about fat-laden, sugary desserts that contribute to obesity, tooth decay, and other health problems.
4. Know Your Food
When parents understand the nutritional value of food, they can teach their children the importance of a wellbalanced diet. Learn the colour wheel of nutrition for fruits and vegetables. Play a little game asking children what fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C or vitamin D. It’s a great opportunity to teach children about vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and how they work together to keep the body healthy.
5. Eat Meals at the Table
Establishing good eating habits includes eating all meals at the table. Watching television at mealtime is an unhealthy distraction for children. Mealtime provides an opportunity for family members to share the day’s plans or experiences. This is a very important step in establishing healthy eating habits.
6. A Family Exercise Programme
Swimming, hiking, bike riding, badminton, camping, and other outdoor adventures are great family “exercise” activities. Limit television viewing, and avoid programmes that show children involved in unhealthy living habits. Hand-held games should also have time limits.
Obesity kills. Once the habit of consuming empty calories is established, it is difficult to change.
By creating a healthy lifestyle for you and your family, you are providing your children with a solid foundation for life. What you teach them today, they will teach their children tomorrow.