As kids head back to the routine of school, it’s a great time to incorporate healthy eating, exercise, and sleep habits for the entire family. Children follow the examples modeled at home and healthy habits create a happy home for everyone.
September marks National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Good eating habits tops the list for fighting childhood obesity. Although it’s easier to stop at the drive-thru on the way home and keep potato chips and Twinkies in the pantry, our kids deserve better. Overweight children often become overweight adults, leading to a greater risk of adult health issues such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and ongoing self-esteem problems.
Barbin Lewis, registered dietician in the Shreveport/Bossier area, gives a few tips on how parents can help their children make healthy choices with food preparation and snacks.
“Cook foods in your own kitchen as much as possible. Take-out food is very high in fat, calories, carbohydrates, cholesterol, and has portion sizes that are too big,” Lewis said. “Plan meals in advance for a week. Make one big grocery run and prepare foods on the weekend. Use the crockpot on especially busy days.
“Offer foods you know your kids like, in addition to those they might not. Put new food on their plate and ask them to try it. Make sure to include whole grains and vegetables every night, not just carbohydrates and meat. Make healthy food options simple and readily available. Wash and cut up fruit and vegetables ahead of time. I like to keep peeled oranges in a Ziploc bag in the refrigerator.”
Finally, Lewis encourages parents to “send your child to school with a healthy lunch that includes a meat sandwich, baggie of fruit, and bottle of water. Limit high calorie beverage choices.”
Good eating habits take intentional effort but will have lasting benefits for the entire family.
Increasing the family’s physical activity is another great way to involve the entire family in healthy habits. Plan family weekends that include exercise like walking, biking or swimming. Lead by example with your own exercise routine. If kids see you head out the door on an early morning run or stop at the gym after work, they’re more likely to recognize the importance of exercise and adapt fitness habits that endure for a lifetime.
Getting enough sleep is another healthy habit that helps fight childhood obesity but often goes neglected. Hormonal imbalances can result from lack of adequate sleep and contribute to a child eating more than he should.
Poor sleep habits with children are often a result of too many extracurricular activities, procrastinating homework habits, or lack of restraint with technology. Helping our kids create balance in their schedules and a proactive homework routine that includes a reasonable dose of technology allows for adequate sleep.
The increase of childhood obesity is alarming. However, as parents, we can help change the statistics with healthy eating, exercise, and sleep habits at home.e Helping
Gayla Grace writes, speaks, and coaches on family and stepfamily issues and holds a master’s degree in Psychology and Counseling.