The 2010 Dietary Guidelines estimate that “approximately 32% of children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 years are overweight or obese, with 17% of children being obese.” This is a scary statistic, and I think it’s safe to say that this number continues to rise. So, who is to blame? Out of curiosity, I asked a number of people and got a variety of responses.
- Food industry
- Rise in technology
- Less physical activity in schools
- Hectic lifestyles
- Fast food industry
Or maybe it’s society’s acceptance of it all? Even children’s clothing seems to be expanding, and doctors tell parents that it’s just “baby fat.” Even Ronald McDonald is getting the blame! One thing is certain. Kids are eating much more than they used to. And the types of foods that they’re eating can barely be classified as food.
Many of the factors that I listed above may very well play a role in the epidemic of childhood obesity (Personally, I think it’s a combination of the ones listed and more.) But there are many things that can be done to combat the situation, and it starts at home. In the end, it’s parents who have control of the situation. As a parent myself, I understand the pressure of feeding your child certain foods. But keep in mind-up until late adolescence, we are in control of what is stored at home and for the most part, how often the child will eat out. While Ronald McDonald may lure a child, it’s ultimately up to us, the parents, to drive through and pay for the food.
Children rely on parents to take care of them and that includes nutrition and health. Risk factors for adult chronic diseases are now being found in children, making them more prone to developing type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
For preteens and adolescents, the parents’ role may change a bit. They will be going out with friends, to the movies, and to football games. Parents still control the grocery stock. Make your actions set a good example. Hopefully, they’ll make healthy choices on their own, and as a parent, you can continue to encourage them.
So what can you do?
- Be a good role model from the beginning. Your child won’t try foods that you say are “gross.” And they won’t avoid soft drinks if you’ve constantly got a can in your hand.
- Encourage activity, especially if you know they don’t get it at school.
- Find out what’s for lunch at school. Nothing healthy? Pack one. Or teach them how to make healthy choices while they’re in the lunch line.
- Don’t use food as a reward or punishment.
- Shop healthy. Your two year old can’t drink fruit punch “all day” if you’re not making it available to him.
- Have family meals. Talk about food and show them a balanced meal.
- Establish a regular, consistent meal plan with meals and healthy snacks.
- Give your child choices-between healthy foods. “Do you want milk or water?” “Do you want a peach or blueberries for your snack?”
- Set limits for video games, tv, and other electronics.
Just keep in mind that there are plenty of factors that contribute to childhood obesity. While some cannot be controlled (genetics), the majority of them can. Don’t be a contributing factor. Instead, control how these factors will affect your child. Chances are, your children do not take nutrition classes in school. As a parent, you have the opportunity to be the best teacher for them.
Thank you for reading! I hope everyone has a great week.