Did you know that one cup of strawberries is only about 50 calories? Compare that to the 250 calories in a cup of strawberry ice cream. Now if only kids found strawberries to be just as enjoyable ice cream, childhood obesity wouldn’t be a concern.
The good news is that parents “in the know” are notably doing more to ensure their kids are staying active and making better food choices overall: carrot sticks over chips, bottled water over CapriSuns, fruit over candy, and bike rides over video games. Over the past 5 years, healthy living seems to have gone viral in the U.S.
These are promising signs for our nation, which has seen its childhood obesity rate double over the past 30 years. In adolescents, childhood obesity has quadrupled, an obvious reflection of a culture that has subconsciously adopted fast food and sedentary lifestyles into its family life; habits that brought an epidemic of chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. The truth of the matter is that healthy habits should start in early childhood.
Yes, there has been a recent awakening towards healthier living! But, we still have a long way to go in educating and inspiring other parents and children. And knowing is half the battle.
What Leads to Childhood Obesity and Other Health Issues
Knowing how to maintain your children’s health starts with knowing what can affect your children’s health. It’s easy to get sucked into the unending flow of birthday parties, school celebrations, and playdates filled with sweets galore. We think to ourselves:
“Oh they’re kids, they can afford to eat it (candy, cupcakes, you name it). They’re only kids once. Let them enjoy.”
But, for health’s sake, think again, parents. A 2015 study still shows that 1 out every 400 children in America suffers from diabetes. Endocrine-related conditions are one of the top 10 reasons children visit an emergency clinic. Starting your children on high-fat, high-calorie, and high-sugar foods will likely breed bad eating habits that lead to childhood obesity and other long-term conditions including cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea, high cholesterol, bone problems, and more. Bad diet combined with a couch-potato lifestyle is a perfect recipe for disease, frequent doctor visits, and ER visits.
How to Decrease the Risk of Childhood Obesity
Instilling these three healthy habits in your children early on in life will reduce the risk of childhood obesity and position them for a better quality of life:
- Nutritious Diet: According to USDA , children need nutrient-dense foods including lean meats, vegetables, and fruits. Try to replace saturated fats with vegetable and nut oil for Vitamin E. Select low-fat dairy products and, last but not least, monitor their caloric intake and the amount of sugar in their foods. Kids’ calorie intake varies based on their age.
- Exercise: Say “No More” to TV and iPad zombies. Instead, encourage biking, swimming, hiking, or running outside with friends. Kids need about 60 minutes of physical activity each day. If it’s too cold or hot outside you can always access YouTube for a lot of fun, kid-friendly workout videos, or sign up for a free account with GoNoodle.
- Water: Drinking water helps with more than just hydration. Getting your kids to drink water regularly throughout the day fights heat exhaustion and helps with their immune and digestive systems.
To learn more about protecting your kids health, see HHER’s piece on secondary drowning and our tips to help avoid heat exhaustion. For any questions about safeguarding your children’s health, contact us.