It comes to no surprise that I am very concerned with the child obesity rate in the USA. As an over weight child, I do not wish on my child what I had to go through: teasing, torturing, knowing that I was “different”.
With the obesity rate growing every year, Americans are in a downward spiral with no end in sight. That’s why it is so important for parents to do their very best in showing their children to eat and stay healthy. Prevention is the only way to put a stop to obesity.
Children are overwhelmed with advertising and marketing showing funny cartoon characters having a great time while chowing down some sugar coated food item. Cereal, snacks, candy… they are on every channel from morning until night. The neighbor kid, Johnny, has a pantry full of fruit roll ups, pop tarts, cereal, and your child comes home from playing begging for these exact items. What to do?
Here are some tips that I believe are the foundation to teaching our youth the importance to eating well, AND enjoying it at the same time!
- Teach your children which foods are healthy–and why. But remember: make it fun and exciting! Buy a food pyramid or print one online and teach talk to them about it. Even make fake food cut outs or words and have them place the food item into the correct category.
- Do not deprive them of “junk food”. This will only lead to discouragement, anger and jealousy. If your children eats healthy on a daily basis, a snack here or there will not hurt them. But be careful and do not let the junk food become a reward for good behavior. Bad habits can start this way when they start to EXPECT it.
- Have your children help with the grocery list. Ask them to look in the fridge to see what you are low or out of. If they are old enough to write then have them print the list for you. Also ask them what kinds of foods they are wanting – the answers may be surprising!
- Take them shopping with you for groceries. If your store has those child size carts, let them push it. Ask them to grab items, teaching them what it is and explaining why it’s important to eat it. If they ask for a certain food, interact with them by asking they think it’s a healthy food or not.
- Be their role model and lead by example. It’s very hard for your child to see you drink soda and eat chips when you tell them to eat their broccoli. If you do not have healthy eating habits then how do you expect your children to have them?
- Eat together as a family. Sit down, enjoy each others company and talk about your day. Do not make special foods for your children while you eat something different, unless of course there is a medical reason. There is no reason for your child to have something different from you.
- Make food fun and exciting to eat! Incorporate lots of different items that add color and variety to their plate. Rule of thumb: presentation is just as important as taste.
- Get them cooking with you. Have your children pick a recipe and have them make it with you. They will not only have fun but they will want to eat it! Teach them basic cooking skills so they can chime in and help whenever they feel like it. Always make your kitchen open to them.
- Be aware that your kids may not like certain foods. Do not FORCE them to eat it as this only leads to disaster. Instead ask them why they don’t like it: taste, texture, temperature, etc. Try again at a different date and see if they will try it. Do not get frustrated and remember that you, as a parent, do not like certain foods, too. Everyone has their own taste and children’s palates are very different from ours.
- Stay focused and do not give up. There will be bad times and good times – embrace the good times and learn form the bad.