Oh How the Tables Have Turned: Healthy Eating!

Oh How the Tables Have Turned: Healthy Eating!

Childhood obesity is a growing problem in America.  Did you know that 1 in 5 kindergartners are already overweight? Healthy growth and weight begins in the home by developing good habits with our children.  

Practical Tips to Promote a Healthy Weight

  • Eat Breakfast: Skipping meals, especially breakfast, may lead to overeating and excessive snacking later in the day. Since mornings can be rushed, offer healthy on-the-go options for breakfast.
  • Watch portion sizes:  Use smaller serving spoons and smaller plates to encourage healthy portions. Do not make children feel like they must always “clean their plate.” Teaching a child to continue to eat when they feel full encourages overeating and stretches the stomach. 
  • Make healthy food easily accessible:  Water, fruits, vegetable snacks, yogurt, and other low calorie snacks should be readily available at all times and placed in plain sight. (For example, in the front of the refrigerator or in large bowls on the kitchen counter.) Replace the cookie jar or candy with a fruit bowl. 
  • Make it colorful:  Fill your child’s plate with a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables.
  • Limit treats and snacks:  Children should have 3 well balanced meals and 1-2 small snacks over the course of the day. Do not let your children graze all day; they need structure to help limit the snacking. Treats are just that, treats on special occasions like birthdays and holidays. They should not be a daily part of your child’s diet.
  • Shop smarter:  If it is in the home, it will be eaten. If it’s not available, the child cannot eat it. Avoid regularly buying, cookies, chips, candies, ice cream, breads, etc. Children are more tempted to reach for these, even when they are not hungry.  
  • Limit juice to 4 oz per day and avoid sugary drinks:  It is a common misconception that “juice must be good for my child because it comes from a fruit.” In reality, juice is full of empty calories. They healthiest part of fruit comes from the meat.  (Let’s also not forget that juice and sugary drinks take a major toll on developing teeth!!)  Encourage your child to drink mostly water and no more than 3 cups per day of low fat or fat free milk. (Beginning at 12 months old, toddlers should consume whole milk until 2 years old when they make the switch to low fat or fat free.)
  • Avoid using food as a reward or punishment:  Example: withholding food for bad behavior or ice cream for being good each day.
  • Turn the TV off for dinner:  Studies have shown that people consume more food when watching TV than those who do not. Take that time to reconnect with your family at dinner.
  • Cook together:  Children take pride in helping, so let them mix the bowl or add the ingredients & they will be more likely to eat what they helped create.
  • Allow choices:  Give your kids a little freedom to make choices in their meals, but limit the choices to healthy items. Example: “Would you like green beans or carrots with your chicken?” 

Diet changes alone are not the only way to promote healthy weight. Increased usage of video games, TV, tablets, and other electronics at much younger ages have pushed more children from playing outdoors to propping up on the couch for hours at a time. (Often times with snacks by their sides.) Physical activity is important, not only in preventing obesity, but in improving mood, sleep, and overall health. Increase your child’s physical activity by:

  • Limiting screen time to less than 2 hours per day.
  • Encouraging outdoor play. 
  • Aiming for 60 minutes of increased physical activity daily. (Some ideas may include family walks/hikes, bicycle rides, swimming, outdoor games/activities.)

Participate with your child. He/she learns from you and enjoys your company. If your child sees you put down the phone/tablet to get out and move, he is going to be more interested in being active!