Today’s guest post is from Laura Kahle, a pediatric dietitian from Arkansas. She gives us a punch list for making sure all families are staying on top of eating and activity conducive to a healthy weight in kids.
Childhood obesity and achieving a healthy weight for kids is quite the popular topic of conversation these days. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years.”
So, everyone is talking about it. Healthcare providers, Registered Dietitians, wellness programs, health agencies…everyone! It’s wonderful the issue has hit the spotlight, but sometimes all the talking makes tackling the matter seem scary, overwhelming or impossible.
Yes, it may be complicated, but it can be taken in bite-size pieces, and it’s most definitely possible.
The Mayo Clinic defines childhood obesity as “a serious medical condition [that] occurs when a child is well above the normal weight for his or her age and height.”
Obesity increases the risk for major diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and can contribute to low self-esteem and poor confidence.
Simple lifestyle changes can be made to not only treat an unhealthy weight but also prevent it for the entire family. It’s about balancing a healthy diet while having an active lifestyle.
Now, the million-dollar question: WHAT CAN I DO?
- Limit the sugary drinks. A study done by Dr. Claire Wang showed that children and adolescents get 10-15% of daily calories from sugar containing beverages like juice or soda. Although juice does contain vitamins and minerals, kids benefit more from having whole foods like fruits and vegetables rather than the calorie-packed liquid. Include more sugar-free beverages and more importantly, water!
- Use the food labels. Believe it or not, those little labels can give you a lot of helpful info. Take a glance at the calories of foods you eat regularly, and make sure to account for the portion size. Some foods may contain sneaky calories.
- Practice portion control. Sometimes kids fill their plates with what their eyes want rather than what their body needs. Teach your kids about eating in moderation and waiting a bit before grabbing seconds.
- Key in to hunger cues. Avoid waiting to eat until you’re so hungry you feel like you could eat the entire pantry. We tend to overeat in moments like this, so include more healthy snacks throughout the day.
- Color your plate. Include plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables to brighten up the plate. Challenge your kids to have as many colors as possible!
- Eat breakfast. After all, it is the most important meal of the day. Breakfast is what gets our metabolism and our minds going!
Get Your Family Moving
- Make it a family affair. Everyone benefits from physical activity, so include the entire family. No child will feel singled out, and who knows, maybe your family is actually an excellent soccer team.
- Reward with activities. Avoid using food as a reward, and instead think about rewarding good behavior with a day at the pool or a trip to the park.
- Limit the electronics. iPads, iPhones, iPods. Kids have it all these days! Limit the time in front of the TV or other electronics, and keep this timing rule the same for all of your children.
- Think outside the box. Activity does not always have to be planned exercise, so feel free to be creative! Consider having the kids chip in with housework or running errands.
- Practice daily. Incorporate physical activity into your daily life. It should seem more off if you don’t have activity than if you do!
Most importantly, be a role model for your children. Practice healthy habits yourself, and remember small changes can truly make a BIG impact!
How are you doing with raising a healthy child with a healthy weight? Find out with my checklist below!
Laura Kahle is a young Dietitian with a passion for teaching kids how healthy eating and exercise are not only important but are also FUN! She completed her Dietetic Internship and Master’s in Nutrition and Physical Performance at Saint Louis University. After working in adult exercise research for 2 years, Laura decided to change tracks and explore the world of pediatrics. She worked at Arkansas Children’s Hospital as the Pulmonary and Cystic Fibrosis Dietitian for 2 years and is now taking some time to travel the country with her husband. Laura loves traveling, exploring new foods and, of course, getting active herself!
Written by: Jill Castle, MS, RDN
Published on: August 8, 2013
Updated on: August 14, 2019