When the new year rolls around, many adults will undertake the yearly ritual of making commitments to cease bad habits -- everything from smoking less and exercising more, and many times to lose some weight. Children are a little less likely to commit to a New Year's resolution, unless it has something to do with sharing their toys or not spending so much time playing Wii. But childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States, and kids could benefit from some weight related resolutions of their own. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that more than 9 million children between the ages of six and 19 are overweight or obese. This is a number that has tripled since 1980 [source: CDC]. With that in mind, work with your children this year to fight these statistics by helping them make some healthy resolutions of their own.
Get Out and Play
One of the essential components to anyone losing weight, children included, is to get out and exercise. Diet plans may work in the short term, but eating a well-balanced healthful diet coupled with an active lifestyle is the only way to really keep the pounds off. A 2004 study from Obesity Research found that every hour a child watches TV or plays a video game doubles his or her risk of obesity [source: Warner]. The best way for kids to combat this is to get out of the house and play. Bike riding, rope jumping, hop-scotch, tag, you name it -- virtually every outdoor activity a child takes part in is more active than lying in front of the television. Encourage your kids to spend more time outside playing with friends, and they'll be less likely to gain extra weight.
Learn About Physical Fitness
One reason there's a childhood obesity problem in the United States is that a lot of kids aren't well versed when it comes to physical fitness. With more pressure being put on educators to beef up math and English test scores, physical education (PE) classes are being cut. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education found that only half of grade school children are enrolled in a PE class, and a mere 30 percent of high school kids are taking a PE course [source: Sealey]. Without the tools and knowledge about physical fitness, kids are forced to learn on their own or from their parents. If your child's school does not have a PE program that offers a wide range of activities, take it upon yourself as a parent to educate him or her about the necessities of physical fitness.
Incorporate Healthy Snacks
With the alarming rise in childhood obesity since the 1980s, more parents should be active in watching what their children eat. The problem is, while the main meals served by a family may be healthy and nutritious, the kids throw it all away by snacking on treats loaded with fat, sugar and empty calories. You can help the situation by not stocking your pantry and fridge with these kinds of snacks and replacing them with healthier alternatives. The best sweet snacks you can provide are fresh fruits. Fruit has no fat, is low in calories and can do a great job of making your child feel full between meals. Nuts and seeds should take the place of buttery popcorn when you're watching a movie. If you want something sweet, try baking your own low-sugar cookies instead of opening a package of store-bought desserts.
Put Down the Soda Can
Teaching your children to watch what they eat and how to snack is necessary for healthy development, but if you stop before you get to beverages, you're only conquering half the problem. Harvard University found that sodas are the leading contributor to added sugars in a child's diet. The research showed that a child's risk of obesity increased by 1.6 percent for every soda consumed [source: Harvard]. While you can only teach your kids to make the right decisions when they're outside of your care, what they drink when they're at home is up to you. Teach your kids about calories and highlight the sugary sodas as a potential deterrent in their bid to stay fit. Swap out sodas for alternatives like flavored carbonated water or just plain old H2O.
Help Out in the Kitchen
One of the best ways to get your children involved in their own diets is to get them into the kitchen. A lecture or class about good health may fall on deaf ears for many kids, but getting them in the kitchen with you for hands-on food preparation is a great way to make sure they're clued into what's going on. As you prepare your food, give your kids tasks like washing or cutting vegetables, or helping out at the grill --whatever is an appropriate task for their age. If your child has an active role in preparing the food, he or she will be more interested in what goes into his or her mouth. Take some time as you prepare your dinner to teach your children about fat content, sugar and empty calories.
If you're thinking of giving up meat, but can't stand the thought of never eating seafood again, you might want to consider the pescatarian diet.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- "Childhood Obesity Statistics and Facts." childrenshospitals.net, January, 2007. http://www.childrenshospitals.net/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Site_Map3&TEMPLATE=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&CONTENTID=47972
- "Increased consumption of soda promotes childhood obesity." harvard.edu, February 15, 2001. http://www.harvardscience.harvard.edu/medicine-health/articles/increased-consumption-soda-promotes-childhood-obesity
- Riley, London. "Healthy Snacks: Cutting the Fat Out of Childhood Obesity." associatedcontent, November 1, 2008. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1142702/healthy_snacks_cutting_the_fat_out_pg2_pg2.html?cat=25
- Sealey, Geraldine. "Just Do It? Many Schools Cutting Gym Class." abcnews.com, September 30, 2008. http://www.ihpra.org/ABCNEWS_com%20%20No%20Sweat%20When%20Gym%20Class%20Cut.htm
- "Video Games, TV Double Childhood Obesity Risk." webmed.com, July 2, 2004. http://children.webmd.com/news/20040702/video-games-tv-double-childhood-obesity-risk