There is nothing more important than protecting our children as they grow. September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and is a great time to spread the word about strategies for helping to prevent childhood obesity.
Obesity is known to significantly impact a child’s health, and children who suffer from obesity are more likely to stay obese into adulthood. Adult obesity is associated with increased health risks including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, sleeping and breathing problems, and cancer. It has also been connected to lower self-esteem, social problems, anxiety and depression.
According to a state-by-state report from the National Survey of Children’s Health, Hawaii ranks 33rd highest in the nation for its childhood obesity rates. The obesity rate for youth ages 10 to 17 in Hawaii continues to be on the rise each year.
There are many factors that can have an impact on childhood obesity. It can be due to family or home environment, genetics, lack of sleep, too little physical activity, and easy access to inexpensive, high caloric foods/sugary beverages.
It is important to start promoting healthy eating and physical activity for our children. Below are examples of things both parents and education providers can do to help to prevent childhood obesity.
Plant a fruit/vegetable garden. This may sound too labor intensive, but it can surprisingly be a lot of fun. A garden does require a little planning and maintenance, but from my personal experience, it pays off. Nothing is more rewarding than making a salad picked fresh from your very own yard and the kids love it!
Take your kids to the grocery store with you. Have your kids make their own grocery list of healthy foods; this can be a fun activity to keep them busy while you prepare to go. When you arrive at the grocery store help them find the foods they have listed. Don’t forget to point out or recommend vegetables and fruits they haven’t tried yet.
Cook with your child. On the weekends when you have some extra time, try making healthy recipes together with your kids:)
Make nutrition fun and eat together as a family. Eating family meals together has been shown to improve academic achievement and self- esteem, a win-win if you ask me! At the dinner table, talk to your child about which foods belong to which food group: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, or dairy. We ask our kids to take at least one “thank you bite” when we are eating something new, that way they learn to try new things.
Keep them hydrated. Make sure water is always available for your child to drink and be sure to limit their juice intake.
Reduce screen time and include daily physical activity. “On average, U.S. children 2-17 years old spend approximately 4.5 hours a day watching some kind of electronic screen.” Studies show that watching too much TV may take away from calorie-burning physical activity and we tend to eat more while watching TV. Help your child get moving. Enjoy exercising together by walking, hiking, swimming, biking, or you could even sign them up for a fun weekly sports team.
Lead by example! Children watch and imitate adults all the time. They look to us to learn everything, the good, the bad, and the ugly. The way parents talk about food, prepare meals, and eat are an extremely important influence in developing healthy eating habits for a child. Be sure to stay hydrated, eat healthy meals and snacks, along with being physically active every day. They are watching us!
Get Involved. Learn what you can do to help improve a healthy school and home environment.