by Iliana Solano, MD and Sean Barrett, Registered Dietitian
Healthy habits start in childhood and can last a lifetime and nowhere is that truer than in the areas of health and nutrition. Unfortunately, it is not an easy process.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood and adolescent obesity in the United States has more than tripled since the 1970s. Data from 2015-2016 show that nearly 1 in 5 school age children and young people (6 to 19 years) are obese.
At the same time, there has also been an increase in eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia in those ages 15 to 24. Obesity and anorexia may appear to be different but these eating disorders often share some of the same risk factors such as low self-esteem, body image distortion and numerous attempts at weight control.
Children learn what they live. If parents have a healthy life style that is what their kids are going to see and copy. It is very hard for the kids to follow a healthy diet and exercise program if they are not supported by their families. By teaching your children healthy habits, and modeling those behaviors in yourself, you can help your children keep a healthy weight and lifestyle. Also, the eating habits your children pick up when they are young will help them continue that healthy lifestyle into adulthood.
A primary key to teaching a child to make healthy choices, is to start early and be consistent. And not to worry, whether your child is two or twelve, it’s not too late to make a positive difference. Here are some ideas for parents to try.
Re-examine family eating patterns.
The types and amounts of food you keep in the house can lead to unwanted pounds for your child. Take a look at how you can add more fruits and vegetables to your children’s diet. If your schedule allows, try to cook meals at home and sit down together as a family to enjoy those meals. Also, get your child involved in the menu planning and food shopping process.
Drink more water.
Encourage your kids to drink more water while decreasing their intake of soft drinks and juices, which have been linked to higher rates of obesity. Have water available at all times so your child can learn the value and benefit of drinking water when they are thirsty. Sodas and sugary drinks are best saved for special occasions.
Plan for snacks.
Continuous snacking often leads to overeating, but snacks that are planned at specific times during the day can actually be part of a nutritious diet. Instead of chips and candy, keep fruits, vegetables and other healthy items on hand for in-between snacks. Promote mindful snacking. Children who are always hungry may be eating for emotional reasons and need help learning how to deal with their feelings in a different way.
Get up and start moving.
Encourage physical activity by playing outside or involving your kids in sports at school or in the community. The American Health Association recommends that children get at least an hour of physical activity every day. Parents can make physical activity a family affair. Walks after meals are a great way for children to talk to their parents and to get in some good healthy movement.
Limit your child’s screen time.
Spending a lot of time in front of the TV, computer or other electronic devices can lead to weight gain since these activities don’t use much energy. A sedentary lifestyle is a major risk factor for developing heart disease and diabetes later in life. Parents should limit the total screen time a child spends to one to two hours a day.
Don’t restrict foods.
If your child loves ice cream, then share a scoop with him or her. Let them enjoy a piece of cake at a friend’s birthday party. Restricting foods can backfire and lead to overeating and poor self-control with regards to being able to stop eating when full. Using food as either a punishment or a reward can also increase a child’s risk for unhealthy eating habits down the road.
Have your child’s pediatrician or health care provider evaluate your child to let you know if he or she needs to lose or gain weight or if any dietary changes need to be made.
Dr. Iliana Solano is a pediatrician at Legacy Community Health. She works at Legacy’s Fifth Ward clinic. Sean Barrett is a registered dietitian at Legacy’s Montrose clinic.
Healthy No-Bake Granola Bites
Healthy No-Bake Granola Bites are the perfect on-the-go snack for adults and kids. They’re packed with whole grains and protein to leave you feeling energized and full, longer.
- 2 cups quick cooking oats (*see note below)
- 1 cup ground flaxseed
- 1 cup crispy rice cereal (like Rice Krispies)
- 1 cup creamy peanut butter (*see note)
- 1 cup mini chocolate chips
- 2/3 cup honey (or agave nectar)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 Tablespoons coconut oil (optional, if needed)
- Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl until well combined.
- Using a cookie scoop and your hands, drop rounded tablespoonful-sized portions onto a parchment lined cooking sheet. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
Storing: Refrigerate in an air-tight container for up to a week or freeze for several months.
*You could use whole grain oats, but pulse them in a food processor a few times first. If not you may need to add a little extra peanut butter or honey to the mixture to help them stick together.*One of my kids is allergic to peanuts, so I substitute sunflower butter in his!
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Total Time: 15 Minutes
Check out this recipe and other kid friendly recipes from tastesbetterfromscratch.com