Admit it, life for today’s kids just isn’t the same as your upbringing. Sure, we had afternoon cartoons and maybe an early Atari game player, but you still found time to ride your bike, play a pick-up ball game, or romp around the playground. Unfortunately, today’s kids find little to entice them off the couch – not with 24/7 cable programing of their favorite shows, video games, and now the iPad. The last thing on a kid’s mind is running outside to play with friends.
It’s no wonder that childhood obesity might end up the ‘growing’ problem for this generation of kids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study recently that showed a staggering 17 percent of all American kids (ages 2 to 19) are clinically obese. Since 1980, when the first study was conducted, obesity rates among children have tripled.
So what can a concerned mom and dad do? The first step is simple math: calories ingested vs. calories burned. The more you eat – especially foods high in fat and sugar – means extra pounds gained, especially if the child is not active. A child must balance his or her diet with physical activity. Here are a few helpful guidelines:
- Cut back on sodas and sugar drinks in favor of fruit juice, vegetable drinks or even water.
- Don’t let your kids convince you they need certain snacks or breakfast cereal they see on television – instead prepare healthy snacks (such as a veggie tray or sliced fruit) and fix well-balanced meals, especially breakfast.
- Set reasonable time limits on television, video games and computer use. It is hard to believe, but the average child spends 7.5 hours a day with electronic media. No wonder family couches wear out so fast!
- Insist that your child spend some time outside, if possible. Of course, the parent should monitor these outdoor activities. For some urban residents, outdoor activities may depend on safety factors or close access to a backyard or city park. In those cases, consider taking your kids to your local elementary school playground.
- Choose healthy when eating out. Many fast food restaurants now provide healthier choices (such as chicken, apple slices and yogurt) instead of fries, burgers or ice cream. Because many sit-down restaurants often serve over-sized proportions of food, you can always order one meal and split it between two children.
- If you are nursing a child, don’t stop too soon. Studies have shown that breastfeeding protects against later obesity in children.
In most situations, maintaining your kid’s weight simply relies on common sense. If you have any concern about your child’s health or weight, take time to express your concerns with your pediatrician or family doctor.
Craig Swapp & Associates is committed to the safety and health of today’s kids. Please do all you can to help your children be “kids safe!”