If you’re a parent of a school age chid, chances are you have received a note from the school nurse outlining your child’s growth patterns and their BMI. Sometimes this can create a sense of frustration, but others may feel a sense of defeat. We know that childhood obesity is a concern. Obesity in general can lead to many health concerns including heart disease, diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea, social stigma and psychological pain. We already know that studies (1 and 2) show obese children are more likely to become obese adults. With all this in front of us, as concerned parents, what can we do?
Here are five tips to take the focus off of your child’s weight and instead focus on habits and health! Create an environment where its no longer about a number on the scale or a BMI chart, but instead about the choices that they make.
1) Fresh Fruits & Veggies
Parents, we are the ones who are doing the grocery shopping. We need to have fresh fruits and vegetables on hand and EASILY accessible for the children to eat. When you purchase produce, wash and prepare it so it is easy for the kids to grab as a snack. We keep containers of carrots, broccoli, bell peppers, grapes, and apples in our fridge for the kids to be able to just grab and GO!
2) Help Kids Stay Active
If you are the parent of a toddler, you are just waiting for the day when they just CHILL! Unfortunately, when our kids are ready to just chill, its hard to
get them moving again. As a parent, we need to make sure we encourage our children to be active with fun games and family activity. Going on walks
together, jumping rope, tag, or enrolling your child in a youth sport or dance. In the summer with longer days, this is certainly easier. In the winter with shorter daylight, youth sports or dance are easy ways to get in active time. Also take advantage of indoor recreation centers. Allow your children to be as creative as they can be with their active movements!
3) Limit Screen Time
If you follow me at all, you know that one of my passions is to use technology responsibly with my children. This means that I have specific times and specific days of the week when my children are permitted to use their screens. This includes gaming systems, iPads, Kindles, television and web surfing. We have a set limit of two hours a day and weekends are only one hour in the mornings. By having a set time for screens, you then force your children to come up with other activities. In the summer, we even reduce the two hours to 30 minutes! When we limit screen time for kids, we help them to create healthy habits of exercise and movement!
4) REMOVE THE JUNK FOOD!
Most people who know me know that I’m not once to mince words. So I’m going to share a bit of tough love here — Parents, WE are the ones who are buying the groceries. WE need to be responsible. Tip number one was to offer more fresh vegetables and fruits and I’m going to take it even a step further and encourage you to save sweets & treats for once a week or a special occasion. Snacks really should be low calorie and high nutritional dense foods such as apples, bananas, berries, grapes, or vegetables like carrots, broccoli, peppers with hummus. If you have an ice cream junkie in your house like I do, you can also blend frozen bananas or berries to make a “nice cream”. If you don’t have the junk food in your house you can’t eat it! The bonus is this helps YOU as much as it does your kids!
5) Understand PORTION = Power!
There is a tremendous amount of power in understanding portions. If you are not familiar with what portions look like, choosemyplate.gov is a great resource. Both you and your children should eat a variety of fruit, veggies, whole grains, lean protein, low fat dairy daily. But don’t forget the WATER! Lots & lots of water. Be mindful of how many calories your children are drinking. Really limit or eliminate sugary beverages like soda, juice or fruit punch.
For more in-depth details on portion and meal planning for families check out the Jumpstart to Meal Planning Success.