Over the past several decades, childhood obesity rates have risen dramatically, especially in economically disadvantaged communities. Children who carry excess weight face a number of health problems in childhood, and later as adults.
A number of factors have contributed to this health crisis, and it's going to take a number of approaches and lifestyle changes to help reverse the trend. Some of them are comprehensive and far-reaching, requiring commitments from industry and politicians. But not all of them.
Some of them require YOU.
Evidence increasingly suggests that some of the most important influences on child behavior are their parents (any caregiver). Parents are crucial role models for healthy - and unhealthy - behavior and are responsible for creating a health-promoting environment at home. But you don't need to start running marathons or swear off ice cream to set a good example. Here are a few simple steps you can take to start building healthy habits at home.
- Take a walk after dinner. Or, if you don't have access to safe streets, play a video game, like Wii, that gets you up and moving.
- Try making one snack a serving of fresh, frozen, canned or dried fruit or fresh, frozen, or canned vegetable. Once you've done that, try adding a serving of each to your daily routine.
- If possible, keep fresh fruit available and accessible to your kids. What is visible is usually what they'll ask for first. Let them see you make this choice too.
- Let your kids look through your cookbooks, magazines, or through recipes on the internet with you and decide on one meal each week. Involve them in the planning and prep as much as possible.
- Children and adults are recommended to get 60 and 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week, respectively. But that doesn't just mean walking and running. There are lots of ways to get physically active with your kids that are less traditional, but also help to build family ties: playing hopscotch or tag, dancing, exploring a new part of your city, jumping rope, or simply requiring that no one stays still during commercial breaks.