With childhood obesity on the rise, parents have to be more proactive than ever when it comes to ensuring their kids are eating healthful foods and getting enough exercise.
When it comes to tipping the scales back in the right direction and teaching children how to be fit for life, the good news is it doesn’t have to be all about boring carrot sticks and calisthenics.
Make food shopping an adventure: Take your kids to the supermarket with you and challenge them to read food labels to discover nutritious choices. Tell them to look out for red flags like hydrogenated oils and get them re-directing their “Can I have this?” requests to trans-fat free foods.
Following the golden rule “Eat right, avoid white,” encourage the whole family to steer clear of high-glycemic carbs like white bread and white rice. Whole grain breads, oatmeal, brown rice and sweet potatoes should prevail on plates along with lean proteins and vegetables. But if you aren’t quite ready to give up the drive-thru, trade the burgers and fries for grilled chicken, salads and fruit now available on most fast food menus.
Pack the right snack: When your kids are away from home, you have no idea what kind of junk they may be eating – so before they reach for sweets, give them better treats. Just some of the optimal choices include grapes, whole grain crackers with low-fat cheese sticks, dry cereal like Rice Chex, air-popped popcorn, low sugar energy bars, fat-free Jello pudding and Dannon Light & Fit yogurt. “Portion control” is another way many companies like Nabisco are marketing snacks in individual packages that are usually about100 calories.
Thirsty for more “fit kid” tips? “Can the calories” in Coke and other sodas that can contain at least ten teaspoons of sugar – and surprise! Even Vitamin Water can have as much as eight grams of sugar. Water now comes in kid-friendly bottles called “Aquapods” and Crystal Light has introduced “on the go” powders you can conveniently mix into water. Today, many juices including Tropicana OJ are available in reduced sugar varieties – but for calcium and Vitamin D, milk rules. Opt for “non-fat” because 2% reduced-fat milk isn’t that low fat/low calorie considering whole milk is 3.3% fat.
Make exercising fun: Forcing kids to participate in activities they really don’t like usually equates to wasting money on classes they invariably stop going to once the novelty wears off. So when you start hearing, “Do I really have to go?” it’s time to find a new thrill.
After-school sports programs are a convenient alternative to sedentary computer IM’ing and video game playing; Olympia Fitness Center in Aventura now offers affordable personal training sessions for young people who think it’s super cool to workout in the gym; and today, experts agree making fitness a “family affair” by running, walking, bike riding, rollerblading or participating in other activities together promotes a healthy bonding experience.
Heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol… to help prevent children from inheriting the dire consequences of obesity, there’s no better time than now to offer motivation for the younger generation. Just say, “Put down that chocolate bar” – and raise the bar for lifelong health and fitness!