Hi everyone! With it being back to school time, our focus tends to shift towards kids. As you know, obesity in children has become an important topic of discussion in the recent years. With all of the changes surrounding school lunches, dietary requirements, physical activity and overall wellness being at the top of your mind you may have wondered, “Is my child overweight or obese? If so, is it safe to put them on a diet?” You came to the right place! Read along as I offer my dietitian recommendations.
With 1 in 3 children being overweight or obese in the U.S., the World Health Organization describes childhood obesity as, “One of the most serious public health care challenges of the 21st century.” Overweight and obesity in kids and teens is a complex issue involving many aspects including circumstances, surroundings, and environments placed upon them by the world, parents, caregivers and themselves.
However, just as an adult may try to diet to lose weight, a child or a teenager may do more harm than good by using restrictive eating practices. As we continue to see the number of children and teens who are overweight or obese increase, the question remains, how do we fix this problem?
Parents play an important role in the eating practices of their children by selecting foods, allocating food and modeling food preferences and behaviors. With today’s busy and fast paced lifestyle, parents and children rarely eat together, eating at different times and locations and including more processed foods in their diets. Busy schedules have led to a decrease in cooking from scratch, where family cooking has become a means to an end, rather than a process for social connectedness and cultural expression. Children often lack the skills necessary to complete basic food related tasks once they reach adulthood.
It is important to note that media has had a strong impact on restrictive eating and potential body dissatisfaction. The impact is twofold. Media promotes the sex appeal of high-energy dense foods at the same time as they encourage girls to be thin and boys to have muscles. These mixed messages impact body image and set up a no-win situation that can lead to feelings of learned helplessness, psychological distress as well as obesity.
- Prepare a healthy and balanced lunch for not only your kids, but also you! Get the kids involved in choosing what they want to put in their lunch from the options you provide.
- Get kids involved with shopping, cooking, etc. It’s important to get kids involved in their own nutrition at a young age.
- As the parent and care provider, you ultimately provide food options that your child gets to pick from. Be sure to have a variety of better-for-you options available in the home and on-the-go.
- Make sure the kids understand why some foods are better choices than others. This is a great opportunity for you and your family to learn about nutrition together. Don’t forget about NuVal, which I often talk about in my other blogs!
- Focus on nourishing your body rather than depriving it. By this, I mean to simply provide your body with better-for-you foods rather than restricting certain foods or food groups.
- Make simple substitutions with your food choices. Even as a dietitian, I understand it’s not realistic to completely change what you are eating. Instead, try making small and simple substitutions for snacks and meals.
- And lastly, watch your portion control! Remember everything is okay in moderation.
Physical activity goes hand in hand with a well balanced diet in both children and adults. Children especially need their physical activity to keep them healthy and balanced while they are growing and developing. The most important idea with physical activity is to just keep kids moving.
Help your child find something they love to do that keeps them active. Whether it’s playing soccer, playing kickball with the neighbors, or simply jump-roping in the driveway, if it keeps the kids moving, that’s all we ask for! According to the CDC, children need at a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Although some children exceed 60 minutes, others may not get quite enough. Studies show that more time is spent sitting passively watching TV, using the computer, playing video games, etc. than being active. It has been found that the average 8-18 year old spends up to 7.5 hours per day on electronics.
- Just move! Walking, skipping, jump roping, cleaning – Have at least 1 hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day, and limit screen time to less than 2 hours per day.
- Get outside with your kids – it’s healthy for everyone and you are setting a good example as well as developing a great daily routine.
How Do You Start?:
As discussed above, it is important to remember that there are many influences on the weight of children in today’s society. Supporting a child, whether it be by modeling nutritious food preferences, cooking together in the kitchen, eating together at the table, or even going for a family walk supports the idea that loved ones can greatly influence and impact children’s habits over the “uncontrollables” like media and fast-food restaurants.
At Coborn’s we are dedicated to supporting our communities in fulfilling healthful lifestyles! We are excited to announce that we will be expanding our services and will be offering family-friendly and kid-friendly food and nutrition-inspired classes and activities within our Coborn’s communities!
If you’re looking for additional information on overweight and obesity in children, I recommend this book below from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as it is written by a registered dietitian! Click the link Here to purchase your own copy!
Peace and wellness,
Coborn’s Registered Supermarket Dietitian
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