5 habits to fight against childhood obesity
September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, which means it is a great time to evaluate our children’s routines and habits. This year has caused sudden changes in our daily lives as many children switched to digital school and had an extended Summer break. Summer is typically more relaxed in American households and bad habits are easily formed. Has your recent change in routine caused you and your children to form bad habits? If so, you are not alone and it’s time to change them now.
#1—Kids should be getting a minimum of 60 minutes a day of physical activity.
Physical activity is important to our health, especially in this time of major stress. THE BEST PHYSICAL ACTIVITY IS PLAY. You and your children both deserve play time.
Indoor game ideas: hide and seek, roll a ball back and forth while practicing math facts.
Outdoor game ideas: dodge ball, swim, bike, tennis, scavenger hunt, explore nature, walk while practicing spelling words, swing as you review the alphabet or multiplication tables.
Go outside, enjoy the fresh air, and PLAY!
#2—Children should be getting at least 8 – 9 hours of sleep each night.
Sleep is a basic, and very important, need for everyone. In adults it has been shown that averaging less than seven hours sleep a night puts you at high risk for putting on and maintaining excess weight. The same is true for our children. Help them set a regular bedtime to get at least 8-9 good hours of sleep. Understanding that this may be a big request, try little nudges to move children to longer sleep times. Use bedtime routines that have worked for you in the past or ones that worked for friends or family members. Every family is different, so try simple likeable ideas like everyone stopping ½ to 1 hour before bedtime for an all family nature program or singing movie or comedy show. Or a family reading circle or a spiritual quiet time together to have everyone wind down from the day.
#3—Limit Screen Time
Minimize screen time as much as possible. It is okay to laugh at this recommendation because it seems impossible in today’s world.
Tips include a) have your children go outside for 5 to 15 minutes between sitting classroom screen sessions. b) consider taking a 1 hour break mid-day to include a healthy lunch, some play time, or a short nap. c) change from handheld screens to only distance (television) screens 1 to 2 hours before bed (family tv together in the last hour before bed) Or, reading from paper books.
#4—Develop healthy eating habits
Developing healthy eating habits is one of the greatest things you can do for your children, but it is one of the hardest.
Tips A) Sit down and write all the fruits and vegetables that you personally love, like, tolerate, cannot stand, and never tried. B) Write down all the fruits and vegetables that you believe your children personally love, like, tolerate, cannot stand, and never tried. C) Set goals to introduce one new or cannot stand from the lists for the whole family to choose and try each month. Make a contest of which family member can eat the most bites of that month’s fruit or vegetable choice. You can also include the month’s choice in an easy recipe if that makes it easier. Which family member can figure out the most interesting ways to try that month’s new fruit or vegetable? Try to minimize making too many salads or too many smoothies.
Also, juices do not count as healthy. WHAT! Yes, juices are missing all that lovely healthy gut protecting fiber.
#5 – Set goals and celebrate wins
Lastly, set little goals. One bite of a new food is a win over refusing to put it in his or her mouth. And, if your child is not willing to put it in their mouth, no argument, just let it go, but feel free to praise yourself and any other family member who try the new food. Remember, this is the food of the month and after a while the child may choose to see what the other family members are eating. If the child never tries the food, do not despair, they will discover more foods, if introduced but not forced or punished.
One 5-10 walk outside is a perfectly good win. 30 minutes of extra sleep is a good win, 5% less screen time a week is a win. Small steps that you feel secure in you and your child being able to achieve successfully are the way to walk toward a healthier happier child.
Childhood obesity is a growing, confusing, complex disease based on genetics, environment, and much more. Parents need to be reminded that it’s not your fault. I know this is the opposite of what your relatives, your pediatrician, and your school advisers may say but it is the truth! Obesity is an epidemic disease due to multiple factors.
For further understanding, if you feel concerned that your child may be at risk of having Obesity, reach out to us at GMOS Clinic. We will perform a free measurement, age appropriate graph evaluation of weight and height, and body composition scans to evaluate amounts of muscle and amounts of fat. This will help you understand where your child may be on the spectrum of risk for the disease of obesity.
Call 352.672.9000 and ask to be scheduled for the special free pediatric risk evaluation.