Childhood obesity is at an all-time high. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination conducted by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the obesity rate in children has doubled in the last two decades. During the same time period, the rate of obesity has nearly tripled for adolescents.
This has caused a devastating rise in childhood diabetes and other obesity-related diseases that are most prevalent in adults. 70% of adults are obese today; we do not want our children growing up to be obese.
We compiled a list of seven ways to teach your children to eat healthier.
1. Get them involved
Involve children in meal planning, giving them healthy options to choose from. Have them participate in grocery shopping, locating healthier alternatives to their favorite foods. Basic food preparation can be handled by many children. By having the children help wash produce, sort beans or shuck corn they learn respect for the effort required to produce a healthy meal.
2. Show them the source
Plant a garden with the children, if only a few herbs in a windowsill or a strawberry pot on the deck. Children are more likely to try a fruit or vegetable that they have had a hand in raising and harvesting. Take them on a tour of a local farm.
Gathering eggs from the hen house, milking a cow or throwing scraps to the pigs may be just what it takes to change their mind about farm fresh products.
3. Mix up some drinks
Smoothies are a great way to add nutritious foods to a child’s diet, while eliminating unhealthy beverage choices such as sodas or energy drinks.
4. Make meal time pleasant
If meal time is full of criticism and arguments, children will hurry through their meal just to get away from the oppressive atmosphere. With time, this will lead to overeating as the children begin to associate stress with their eating habits. Turning off electronic devices and eating together will make eating a pleasant experience and help avoid potential negative associations with mealtime.
5. Skip the junk food aisle
The children cannot choose chips and soda and other junk food if there are none to be found. Keep an assortment of healthy snacks available for the children. Pack nutritious snacks for outings and car rides. Kids are more apt to eat what’s before them when there is nothing else to do besides look out the window.
6. Be a good example
The children will mimic what the adults in their lives do and that includes the eating habits they see. Healthy eating is easier on everybody when every one of them is on board.
7. Keep at it
When we see no progress, we are tempted to give in. Research has shown it may take re-introducing a new food up to ten times before it is accepted. Offer the new foods at different meals, lunch versus dinner, and in different forms. Steamed carrots may not be appealing to a child, but raw carrot sticks served with a yogurt dip may be deemed acceptable.
Everyone wants to see happy and healthy children. Making a change in eating habits can be difficult and may take some time, but these tips above help you tackle childhood obesity.
Ogden C, et al. “High Body Mass Index for Age Among US Children and Adolescents, 2003 – 2006.” Journal of the American Medical Association 2008, vol. 299, pp. 2401 – 2405.