According to the Centers for Disease Control, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled over the last three decades. In the short term, obese youths are more likely to face risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, pre-diabetes, a greater risk for bone and joint problems as well as sleep apnea. The future concern is that obese children will become obese adults who not only face the same health challenges but also an increased risk of stroke, cancer and osteoarthritis.
One important part in the fight against childhood obesity is taking the time to evaluate what we’re eating, and in turn, what we’re feeding and teaching our children about food. March is National Nutrition Month and it couldn’t be a better time. Small changes can have a big impact on your family’s health, according to Keri Gans, a registered dietician and author of The Small Change Diet. Gans points out that too many people try to overhaul their health in one shot, putting themselves at an increased risk of failure. She suggests focusing on one area at a time, to ensure the change is life-long, not just a short-lived resolution.
Some simple changes Gans suggests include creating an eating schedule to make sure that no one is missing meals, in addition to giving the family a chance to reconnect. Introducing fruits and vegetables consistently to the family plate will not only liven up meal time but also helps get kids used to vegetables as an essential part of their diet. Easily cut empty calories by cutting out soda, and gradually switching from whole milk to skim milk. Whole wheat is another great switch for breads and pastas that will make a big impact.
A healthy body feeds a healthy mind and gives our children a foot forward in their education. Parents and teachers can serve as role models to insure not only a healthy childhood but an enduring commitment to a healthy lifestyle.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers numerous resources for families, including information on how to eat right affordably, find farmers’ market, and learn about kids and teens’ special nutritional needs.