According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a startling 35.7% of adults and approximately 17% of youths aged 2-19 in the U.S. are obese. Alarming in and of itself, this frightening epidemic is showing no signs of decreasing in the foreseeable future. While society is not helpless to curb this trend, it is crucial that each individual takes responsibility for his role in the escalation of this terrible plague. Still, in a culture that places more value on standardized testing than on physical fitness and nutrition education, there has been a severe lack of attention to this matter. However, recently government leaders have begun to take action in efforts to reverse this dangerous trend.
While it is important to have the support of school officials and policy makers, the most significant factor in changing these statistics remains in parental responsibility. Parents must encourage physical activity and incorporate healthy snacks and meals into children’s routines. To accomplish this, it will most likely be necessary for parents to re-evaluate their own habits, but leading by example may actually do more for the cause than any other action.
There are numerous ways for parents to get their children involved in healthier lifestyles.
Plan Outdoor Activities
Though everyone seems to be busier
and have more obligations these days, there are usually one or two days out of the week when there is some available down time. Parents can use this time to plan family ball games, bicycle trips or simple nature walks. The activity is not as important as the idea of being active.
After a long day at work many parents resort to fast food as a quick way to solve the dinner conundrum. However, with a little planning, healthy meals can be just
as quick and more cost effective. By making casseroles and soups ahead and freezing them for later, a nutritious home-cooked meal can be as close as the microwave.
When left to their own devices, children will choose unhealthy, easily accessible foods to fill the gap between meals. This unhealthy snacking can be thwarted by having a selection of raw fruits and vegetables or nuts pre-packaged. A platter of carrot stick and fat-free dressing takes mere minutes to prepare and offers much more sustainability than a bag of greasy potato chips.
This does not mean parents need to be the “internet police,” but setting guidelines about how long children can be on the internet, play video games or watch television helps them find healthier ways to spend their time. This can also be used as a reward system; for example if little Billy keeps his room clean all week, he may play his video games an additional 30 minutes on Saturday.
These are some creative ways to intervene in children’s lives and help them make healthy choices. The lessons learned early will remain through adulthood and help them lead longer, healthier lives. The gift of health is the greatest thing a parent can give a child.