Most adults fawn over cute and chubby children. You’d love to hug and kiss those plump cheeks and tickle those tubby toes.
But while it is so adorable to see such charming cherubs, parents must take care that the bouncing baby in their arms does not end up unhealthy and overweight.
Out with obesity
In a 2017 report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 1 out of 6 children is overweight or obese.
Obesity is a condition wherein a child’s relative mass is above the normal weight for kids. Since 1963, pediatric obesity has dramatically increased, causing a wide range of health problems in children.
Not only do these children have increased risks in acquiring high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, they may also go through a stigma about their weight. Obese children are more susceptible to psychological stress that may lead to low self-esteem, negative body image and depression. Children who struggle with obesity in their early years are likely to grow into obese adults, with high rates of early deaths.
Parents have a responsibility to make sure that their children will lead healthy lives. Here are some ideas for preventing childhood obesity:
Be smarter with food
It can be a daunting task to shift to a healthier lifestyle, but with proper information and guidance, parents can take the necessary steps to prevent obesity in the family.
- You can start by doing research on what the appropriate food groups for children Having a keen understanding of these nutritious foods will also help you in shopping for healthier food choices.
- Encourage your kids to cook. Aside from being a bonding activity, cooking also allows you to discuss the benefits of the ingredients in your meal.
- Make your plate as colorful as possible with a variety of fruits and vegetables taking the lion share.
- Allow your kids to choose what to eat (e.g., green beans or whole grain carrot muffins?) as long as you offer healthy alternatives.
- Refrain from forcing them to finish what’s on their plate. Instead, encourage a habit of just getting what they can eat and reaching for second helpings if they are still hungry.
- Do not skip breakfast, and limit treats over the course of a day. Have healthy, low-calorie snacks and drinks pre-portioned and within reach. This is a better alternative to sugar-laden sweets when your kids are on their snack break.
- Remember to avoid using food as punishment or reward as this might lead to unhealthy food associations.
Encourage physical activity for the whole family. Take care not to single out one child just because he or she is overweight compared to the rest of the family members.
- Engage in fun activities that will get your heart pumping and will help stretch and tone muscles.
- Let your child help with mopping the floor or weeding the garden; even everyday activities can also be a source of exercise.
- Getting the proper amount of sunshine can also help, so aim to encourage playtime in the yard. At least an hour of physical activity can already help keep your bodies fit.
Technology has its rewards, but on the dinner table, it is best to put the gadgets away.
- Encourage healthy dining habits by putting tablets, phones, or toys away from the dinner table.
- Turn off the TV or anything that can distract your kids from enjoying a good family meal.
- Make mealtimes a time to catch up and talk about each other’s day. Refrain from having arguments or fights while eating, as this will teach them to associate eating time with negative emotions. Try to make mealtimes a light and positive experience for everyone.
- Limit screen time to just an hour or two a day. This will discourage them from being glued to their screens and leading a sedentary lifestyle.
Get enough zzz’s
Make sure that your kids get enough sleep. There are studies that link sleep and obesity and both factors can affect each other. When children do not get enough sleep, they are at risk for problems with safety, performance, and health. Children who are obese, on the other hand, can also suffer from sleep apnea, a potentially life-threatening disorder.
To address this, establish a healthy bedtime routine.
- Try to go to bed at the same time every night.
- Calm them down at least 15 to 30 minutes before bed by putting away their toys and gadgets, turning off the television, and pausing active playtime activities.
- Avoid giving them food that has caffeine, like chocolates.
- Wind down with soothing activities like telling a bedtime story or engaging in prayer and meditation.
Be a good role model
You should walk the talk and be a good example in promoting a healthy lifestyle. For children to become more committed to follow a healthy regimen, they should see their parents or elders doing the same thing.
- Influence their behavior by living a healthy and active life. Let them see you eat nutritious food and exercises so they will be more inclined to do so.
- Take note to encourage the steps they are taking to be healthy. Point out positive actions and refrain from giving negative criticism. There is always a better way to say things, so consider how they will feel before giving out suggestions.
All for one, one for all
Taking the necessary steps towards choosing nutritious food and engaging in physical activities can prevent obesity. It will always be a matter of choice, and if there is a collective effort to row in one direction, then success can be achieved.
The journey to health and fitness can be easier and more enjoyable if the whole family takes part in it.