Although the childhood obesity rate has dropped in recent years, it still hovers around 17%. That number is far too high, especially considering that childhood obesity is linked to adult obesity, diabetes, and a host of other medical conditions. What is the best way to prevent your little one from starting down the path of unhealthy eating?
The best strategy is a long-term one that aims to increase physical activity and improve diet. Unless otherwise advised by a doctor, a growing child typically does not need to lose weight; a better strategy is to help them stop any weight gain and let them grow into their current weight.
Your efforts should start at the kitchen table. Go online and find recipes that are healthy, enjoyable, and nourishing (hint: we post a lot of these on our Facebook page). It’s a lot of work, but the more meals you prepare at home, the healthier the food will be. Outside foods from restaurants will often be loaded with sugar, salt, and empty calories. Furthermore, try to get your child in the habit of sitting down to a real meal; constant snacking is an easy way to sabotage a diet.
One thing you will want to greatly reduce, or even eliminate entirely, is sugary drinks. A large soda can pack the same caloric punch as a filling, healthy meal. Even things like 100% orange or apple juice, while healthier than soda and fruit drinks, can contain a lot of calories and sugar. Get in the habit of checking the nutrition facts on the back. When it comes to dessert, choose a healthy option like peanut butter on apple slices or fruit salad. You can still occasionally have cake or other sweets, but try smaller serving sizes.
What’s the most important thing you can do to help a child improve their diet? Make healthy eating a family project. Losing weight is easier when you have a support system. It’s also a great way to bond as a family.