As a society, we are failing in our efforts to keep our children healthy. Health care professionals, educational institutions, and the food and beverage industry should all be held accountable. Over the past 30 years childhood obesity has more than doubled for children and amazingly tripled for adolescents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fat children are more likely to become overweight or obese adults. At this rate, we are headed toward having a mostly obese culture. Overweight and obese children are at an increased risk for a number of health-related problems, including (but not limited to) cardiovascular disease, diabetes, sleep disorders, poor self-esteem, and bone or joint problems.
Here are three tips every parent can use to slow and prevent this frightening epidemic:
1. Diet modification
The average American child consumes entirely too many carbohydrates in the form of high fructose corn syrup, sugars, and low-fiber, starchy carbs. One major problem is that most parents don’t realize how terrible regular soft drinks, juices, and sodas are for kids. These are empty calories and should be avoided in large quantities and replaced with water. Kids also need plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, and lean protein in the form of chicken breast, fish, lean beef, eggs or tofu. There should be a balance between, carbs, fats and protein. Right now, most American children are eating a disproportionately high amount of carbohydrates.
2. Increased physical activity
Unfortunately, as funding for physical education classes continues to decline, American children are at an increased risk for health problems related to obesity. Hours spent in front of the TV, computer, or playing video games should be kept to a minimum, and outdoor activity should be increased. I’ve found that by participating in physical activity with my children, I’m more successful at getting them to work out than if I say “go outside and get some exercise.” Find a balance between different methods of encouraging them to be fit.
3. Promoting healthy lifestyles
Wellness and living a healthy lifestyle are values that should be taught to your child, and incorporated into their daily lives. Children learn from example. Parents should exercise regularly, get adequate sleep, and eat a nutritious diet. Lots of children eat out of boredom. Help them to replace this habit with enriching activities like participating in a new sport, or an extracurricular class. Make health a priority by participating in active lifestyle events within your community and working with your child’s school to encourage healthy programming.
The long-term health effects for obese children are frightening. All of this can be prevented by engaging in healthy lifestyle habits, increasing activity, and diet modification. By following these simple tips alone, you can give your child an outstanding chance on avoiding heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, certain cancers and other serious complications.
Wishing you health and happiness,
Holly Lowe Jones is a media professional, certified fitness and nutrition expert, and personal trainer (ISSA). A member of the National Association for Health and Fitness, Jones is also a seasoned triathlete who competes in her spare time.
For more information, please visit her website www.hollylowejones.com.
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