By CORNELL McCLELLAN
Commit to healthy eating habits and keep everyone active.
Obesity in American children has tripled since the 1980s. Close to 15 percent of children nationally are now classified as overweight, putting them at a risk for a host of problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and poor self-esteem.
Additionally, overweight children are 70 percent more likely to become overweight or obese adults, which means they probably will suffer from health complications throughout their lives.
The best way to stop childhood obesity in its tracks is to commit to healthy living as a family. Here’s how:
Never use food as a reward. It’s tempting to encourage good behavior by promising children ice cream or a cookie as a reward, but not only does this add unnecessary calories, it teaches unhealthy eating habits. After all, if junk food is a reward, that must mean that healthy food is a punishment. Instead, encourage good behavior by using rewards such as more playtime or increased allowance.
Make cooking part of family time. Many parents avoid cooking healthy meals at home because it takes time and effort. However, if you all pitch in, cooking can be an easy and fun process. Have your kids wash the veggies while you chop, or they can set the table while you flip the chicken breasts. Kids love to help cook and it will teach them healthy habits that they will mimic throughout their lives.
Prepare the best diet for kids. Cook dinners that include fruits, veggies, whole grains and lots of lean protein. When choosing protein sources, use this guide: The fewer feet, the better to eat! (In other words, chicken is better than beef, fish is better than chicken and soy is a great option as well.)
Take active vacations. With winter weather getting Chicagoans down, many people are planning a getaway with their kids. However, vacations often can lead to excess calories and lack of exercise. Plan an active and healthy vacation that will leave all of you emotionally and physically recharged.
Make sure to get active every day, such as through swimming at the hotel pool or hoofing it about town to check out the sights. Pack healthy snacks for road trips, such as Cheerios, fruit slices or baked chips.
Go on a media diet. It isn’t enough to just eat healthy. You also have to make sure your kids aren’t overloading on media, whether that is watching television, playing video games or using cell phones.
The average kid spends 7-13 hours on these activities every day, and these cannot only “rot their brains” as the saying goes, but also their bodies. Kids need to be active to burn calories and build muscle.
Of course, you can’t just pop your kid on the treadmill or sit them in front of a Pilates DVD! Here are some ideas for kid-friendly exercises that will get your kids active while having fun at the same time:
Have a jumping jack free-for-all. March in place or run in place. Play hopscotch. Perform curl-ups (otherwise known as sit-ups). Walk around the block. Ride bikes. Do squats. Jump rope together. Do pushups or try chair dips. (Place your palms on the edge of a chair, with your legs out before you. Support yourself on your heels while you lower your body and return back up.)
Do these exercises with your kids to teach them healthy exercise habits (and to reap some calorie-burning benefits for yourself!). Your child’s physical health is just as important as his grades or his emotional health, so make sure you are devoted to fitness as a family. Some day, your child will thank you!