Whether your child is overweight or not, it’s never too early (or too late) to start teaching about eating right and living well. Here are some key Habits to Have® to help prevent childhood obesity and teach your kids healthy habits that will last a lifetime:
It sounds simple, but the key to preventing and managing childhood obesity is reducing the amount of calories that go in and increasing the amount of calories that are burned with exercise.
If eating right seems like punishment, no kid will want to do it. Involve your children in meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking. Give your child several healthy choices and let him or her plan dinner. Make funny faces out of veggie sticks. Use pretzels to make fruit or veggie sculptures.
Life is busy and schedules are hectic. But studies show that kids in families that sit down together for dinner several night a week are more likely to adopt healthy eating habits and behavior. They also do better in school.
Even if it seems like your kids (and especially your teenagers) don’t notice anything about you, they do. The lessons you impart now will stick with them for a lifetime. If you make an effort to eat right and get exercise, your kids will notice. Don’t just tell your kids to eat healthy snacks, have one yourself. See 10 Ways to Help Children Develop Healthy Habits.
Not everything that goes into your mouth is going to be whole grain, homemade or 100% nutritious. And that’s OK. Show your kids how to have a healthy relationship with food by remembering moderation and eating right throughout the day.
This simple-to-remember formula (developed by the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children) will help you make sure your kids get the recommended fruit, veggies, screen time and exercise they need.
5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day
4 servings of water a day
3 servings of low-fat dairy a day
2 or less hours of screen time a day
1 or more hours of physical activity a day
Over time, our portion sizes have grown increasingly larger. A good way to keep from overeating is to use smaller plates and smaller bowls. We’re used to filling our plates, but that’s usually far more food and calories than we actually need.
Even if you stock your home with healthy snacks, your child spends much of the day at school. At school, children are surrounded by unhealthy food options, from vending machines to fried food in the cafeteria. Talk to your PTO or principal about how the school can become a healthier environment. Learn more about the Healthy Schools Program from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
Kids tend to embrace change more if they have some say in it. Don’t just tell your kids how to eat right and live well. Empower them to make their own healthy decisions. Learn more about the kid-led movement at empower ME.
There are lots of resources to help you help your child. Talk to your child’s health care provider, school nurse or PE teacher. A dietitian can help you come up with healthy meal plans. Many hospitals offer pediatric weight management programs. Many YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs are involved in fighting childhood obesity and may offer some helpful programs and classes.