President Obama has proclaimed September as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.
During National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and throughout the entire year, let us each commit to reaching toward a healthy lifestyle so we can serve as examples of healthy eating and active living for our Nation’s children. Eliminating childhood obesity will require every American to play their part, and together we can work toward building healthy, active communities where all children can realize their dreams and meet their full potential.
President Barack Obama
And while it’s encouraging to hear obesity rates are dropping in the 2-5 age group, the CDC states: In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
So what can we do to give our children the tools to lead healthy lives?
Healthy Body Image
Eat Nutritious Foods
Our H.E.A.R.T movement will give you five ways to encourage health and fitness for kids, so you can help fight childhood obesity, and give your children the tools to be healthy kids who turn into healthy adults.
Healthy: Promote a HEALTHY body image. I believe this is one of the most important things we can do for our kids–especially our girls. Don’t talk about your body, or theirs, negatively. No matter what your child’s weight is, be sure to talk about their body (and yours too!) in a positive way. We don’t use the word diet in our house–nor do we talk about exercising to be thin. We try to frame things in a body positive manner. For example, eating healthy food is all about giving our body the fuel and energy we need to be active, smart, productive human beings. When I go for a run or go to the gym, I don’t tell my kids it’s so I can lose weight. Instead, I tell them I exercise to be strong and healthy. We talk about exercise and healthy food choices as a way to have a healthy heart, mind, and body.
Eat: EAT nutritious foods! This is easier said than done. But most food habits are just that–habits. Start slowly and with small changes as you move towards a balanced diet of fruit, vegetables, grains, and protein. If you fry foods, try baking instead. Your family may protest at first but before you know it, they’ll accept this new, healthy habit.
Teach your kids the difference between TREATS vs. SNACKS. We don’t have off limit foods in our home and we love desserts but when we need to nourish our bodies for snack time during school and right after school we choose a healthy snack. If you need ideas for a nutritious snack be sure to check out our list of 50 healthy snacks for kids.
If your kids drink juice or soda, try swapping out one of those drinks for water. Make it a family goal to eat out at fast food restaurants less. If you currently eat out once a week, try cutting back to twice a month. Have your kids help you with meal planning so they have input and ownership of the family’s food choices. None of these things can be done overnight. Tackle one thing you want to change at a time and before you know it, the majority of your nutrition choices will be healthy!
Active: Get ACTIVE! It seems like this would be easy to do but with technology, television, time spent in cars, homework and more, being active can get put on the back burner. One way we promote movement in our house is by limiting technology time during the week. Unless the computer is needed for homework, we have a zero screen time policy midweek. This means instead of the kids asking if they can play on the ipad or watch a TV show, they are asking if they can ride their bikes or scooters. And speaking of bikes, our family made a goal this year to ride our bikes to school more than we ride in the car. If this is an option for your family, I highly recommend ditching the car and using bikes, scooters or walking to school.
Make having an active lifestyle FUN! Instead of talking about physical fitness as something you HAVE to do, talk about it in a way that makes it fun for your family. Trade the word have for GET. “We GET to go on a bike ride today!” Go on family hikes, bike rides, or play games like frisbee outside. Don’t drag your kids to sports activities they hate–let them try out activities and find the one (or more) that make them look forward to moving. One year it might be soccer and the next year it might be lacrosse.
Rest: Getting enough REST is vital for our bodies! Studies show getting too little sleep might lead to weight gain. Too little sleep means our kiddos won’t have the energy to DO the activities we want them doing to get their bodies moving during the week (and weekends!). Talk to your child about getting enough sleep and choosing a bed time that is age appropriate. Getting enough sleep will not only help them in their physical life but their academic one as well. With enough sleep they will be more focused and ready to learn in their school day.
Teamwork: Living a healthy lifestyle should be a TEAM affair. Our kids look to us as parents for direction and how we live our lives greatly impacts the choices they make now and will make in their future. If we aren’t active as parents, it’s unlikely our children will want to be active now and as adults. So set the example as their ‘coach’ and be sure to model what you hope for them: making healthy food choices and having fun while being active. Make health and fitness a priority for your team and before you know it, it will be part of your family culture.
The benefits of being a healthy weight are both immediate and long term. From reducing the risk of blood pressure and high cholesterol to reducing the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and strokes. By following our healthy HEART steps you can help encourage good habits and health for your kids.
Never Give Up,
What is one of your family’s favorite ways to get moving?