As parents, we spend a lot of time talking to our kids about the dangers of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes and the need for safety on the Internet.
But obesity is clearly one of the biggest concerns in the United States today and poses dangerous consequences to our children’s physical and emotional health.
Let’s reverse this epidemic by creating a healthy home environment and regularly talking with our kids — starting as young as two years of age — about the importance of eating the right foods and engaging in regular physical activity.
Joy’s Health Strategies for Parents:
1. Set a shining example. Kids, especially the youngest ones, mimic their parents. Be a healthy role model at home and on the road.
2. Put the entire house on a “health program.” Never single out one child struggling with a weight issue. Even super-thin siblings benefit from healthy eating and regular exercise.
3. Make healthy eating and exercise fun. Involve your kids in meal planning, shopping and cooking. When kids help to pick out and prepare veggies for the stir-fry, or season turkey meat for tacos, they’ll be more likely to branch out from mainstays like chicken nuggets. You can also try “themed dinners” once a week. For example, plan Japanese night: Make chicken teriyaki, put pillows on the floor, take your shoes off and eat at the coffee table. When it comes to fun family exercise, enjoy weekend bike rides, long walks, adventurous hikes, playing ball, tossing a Frisbee ... anything goes.
4. Practice a 90/10 food strategy. My rule is 90% healthy food, 10% fun food. Certainly we should limit the not-so-healthy stuff — but not eliminate it. Diets that are too restrictive backfire with a vengeance. Help your child preplan for occasional indulgences and insure they fit in with friends and schoolmates (i.e., pizza at parties, cake at birthdays and ice cream with friends).
5. Seek outside help. If you’re having a tough time getting your kids on board, don’t hesitate to seek the help of an outside professional. As parents, we all know that some kids are much more likely to follow guidelines and show interest when the information is coming from someone else. To find a qualified pediatric/adolescent registered dietitian in your local area, visit the American Dietetic Association’s Web site at www.eatright.org and plug in your ZIP code. Scroll through the list of names and select those who have experience working with kids. You can also ask your pediatrician for a recommendation.
Kid-friendly exercise options
If your child is too self-conscious to participate in team sports or regular after-school activities, you can encourage jumping rope, bike riding, stair climbing, tennis, long walks, or consider investing in a backyard trampoline. You should also check out exercise videos or special TV games for the house (e.g., Dance-Dance Revolution — between $50 and $70), Wii (game console for $250… plus, you get interactive sports: baseball, bowling, boxing, golf and tennis). You can also investigate personal trainers who work with kids, on-on-one coaches, gym teachers looking for extra after-school hours … if cost is an issue, team up with a few neighborhood kids in the same boat to share the expense.
Joy Bauer is the author of the No. 1 New York Times best-seller, Joy Bauer’s Food Cures. For more information on healthy eating, visit Joy Bauer’s Web site at www.joybauernutrition.com