Childhood obesity is a serious issue many families face. 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. They also report that in 2010, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. These numbers are extremely alarming because obesity has numerous health effects.
September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. This month-long event is designed to educate individuals regarding the dangers of childhood obesity and what they can do to fight it. Here are five ways you can fight childhood obesity in your own home.
1. Create a family fitness plan
This month is the perfect time to sit down and establish a fitness plan that everyone in your family can stick to. By now, school is in session and routines should be established. You should now know how much time your family can devote to staying fit each day.
Creating a fitness plan for your family doesn't have to be an overwhelming project. Think about your children's interests. If your family enjoys swimming, take them swimming once a week. Go the park together, ride bikes or rollerblade. When creating a fitness plan, don't design a plan that feels like exercise. Think about your children's interests and cater to them.
2. Slowly cut out the junk
If you cut out the sugar, sweets and other junk food from your family's diet at once, you will face some upset, moody individuals. You will also find that this change won't last long with your family, and old habits will begin to creep back in. Junk food is one of the leading causes of obesity. It is fast and tastes good, but most junk food contains empty calories and an excess amount of sugar or salt.
To wean you and your family off of the bad food in your diet, take it slowly. Instead of giving them that sugary beverage for lunch, give them milk. Instead of an after-school snack of three or four cookies, give them one or two or try a fruit smoothie instead. Don't make that big bowl of buttery popcorn, air pop the popcorn and add a small dash of salt or parmesan cheese.
After a few days of eliminating some junk from your diet, remove just a little bit more. This will be a long and continual process, but it is a way to improve your child's diet without caving into your old ways.
3. Plan more family activities
Another leading cause of obesity is a digital screen. Children and teenagers spend a significant amount of time in front of the TV, computer and smartphone. Instead of playing outside or being active, they spend all their days living a sedentary lifestyle. To prevent this from happening to your children, plan activities you and your family can do together. Build an obstacle course in your house or outside. Go to a museum, do yard work, shovel snow, fly kites or build a snowman as a family. When everyone takes part in the activity, your children are less likely to say, "No," and more likely to step away from their distractions.
4. Enjoy family dinner
Family habits are a large influence over a child's weight. When a family is too busy to sit and enjoy a meal together, often the child eats fast food, processed foods or something with very little nutritional value. Family dinner is an excellent way to put a stop to this poor diet. Make it a point to set aside an hour each night for family dinner. Create a menu filled with healthy dinners that include protein, vegetables and grains, and then enjoy the meal together.
5. Set a bedtime
Adequate sleep is a large contributor to a healthy lifestyle. When helping your family stay active and healthy, set a bedtime for your children and stick to it. Lack of sleep affects an individual's metabolism. Also, when children are tired in the mornings, they are less likely to eat a healthy breakfast. Be especially strict about sticking to a bedtime over the weekend. If children stay up late and disrupt their sleep routine, they will feel the effects for several days.
Childhood obesity is a challenge that is facing many homes. However, the fight to prevent it starts with the family. Remember, the habits your children learn now will affect their entire lives. Do all you can now to ensure those habits are good before it is too late.