Lead by Example…in the quest for healthier kids.
By Doug Pinkerton, M.Ed.
When was the last time you took a good look at the health of American children? We are all so busy with our own families, few of us have time to delve into the details of the health trends of young people, but it’s impossible to miss the fact that there is an epidemic of childhood obesity. If you look at what kids are eating and drinking – and if you pay attention to the high rates of inactivity, you will find the problem and the solution can be found at home.
Childhood obesity rates have more than tripled since 1970. National statistics estimate that 9 million adolescents, that’s 17 percent of the population, are overweight, and 80 percent of overweight adolescents will grow up to be obese adults. Children are becoming heavier at younger and younger ages. As a result, these kids are now at risk of (or are already dealing with) high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Unfortunately, this epidemic will only get worse if nothing changes.
So, how did this threat to the health of our children come about? We all have to agree that kids imitate behaviors and habits they observe from the adults around them. Our kids notice everything we do. As adults we are the ones who put the food selections on the table or drive through the take-out window. We stock the pantry with treats and snacks, so what we buy and make available to our kids is what they are going to eat. If we can’t wait to hit the couch, munch on the chips and dip and watch TV, so will the kids.
Studies show that the way we can best teach our children to eat nutritious foods and get regular exercise is by setting a good example for them. They need to see us making good nutritional choices and demonstrating the importance of exercise. The old “do as I say, not as I do” philosophy never has been successful when it comes to raising kids. Parents, we need to remind ourselves that we are the ones responsible for guiding and teaching our children to make healthy choices, by first taking our own advice.
It may be hard at first, but with some effort and thought we can make the adjustments our families need to get on the path to healthier habits. Start by making smarter food choices at the grocery store and having healthier options in the pantry. Replace candy and sugary treats with a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter (not hidden in the refrigerator drawer). Keep healthy choices readily available, so they are not only the right options, but the only options your kids have. Eliminate high-sugar and carbonated drinks and replace them with water, milk and sugar-free juices. Opt to cook more meals at home instead of stopping for fast food. It can have a huge impact on the amount of calories and fat consumed by all! Busy moms, check out recipes for 30-minute healthy meals online. You’ll find there are some great dishes you can put on the table with just a few minutes of your time. The effort is well worth it in the long run.
When it comes to exercise, put away the Xboxes for rainy days and get the whole family outside and moving. That means you too, Mom and Dad. Movement is the key! Parents, join in and get the kids walking, jogging, riding bikes, throwing a Frisbee, swimming, playing hide and seek. These are all great ways to burn some calories and get your heart pumping. The important thing is that you are all off the couch!
Set a good example for your children to follow. By teaching them to be healthy, you are making an impact that will help them grow up to be healthy. And by following your own example, you’ll stay a lot healthier as well!