Most of us have seen the headlines: an alarming number of American children are being diagnosed with diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension that were once associated with adults and aging. It doesn't have to be this way. We know a lot more about nutrition's role in good health than we did 20 or 30 years ago. You and I also know how dificult it is for adults to change our eating habits. One of the best things we can do for our children is to help them make good nutrition a lifelong routine.
It's a sad fact that being overweight or obese are real problems for many kids. If your child needs to lose weight, don't wait for the pediatrician to say something First. Many doctors don't feel comfortable approaching the subject. It is up to you to take action while your child is still young. It doesn't get any easier as they get older. Especially as they go through their teen years, dealing with their body image is stressful enough without also having to cope with potential health issues.
As parents, we make decisions about our children's health all the time. We take them for dental appointments, make sure they get their childhood vaccinations, and insist that they wear protective gear before they jump on their bikes or skateboards. So why don't we do more about their food choices, when we know that doing so may help delay or even prevent the onset of certain diseases? We as parents need to be more assertive about what our children eat.
I consider something as simple as milk. After age 2, there is no reason children should drink whole milk. Converting them to skim reduces the amount of saturated fats they consume. They can get plenty of the essential fatty acids from better food choices. Teach your child to reach for low-fat options in all dairy products including yogurt and cheese. By the way, there are some terrific-tasting low fat ice creams on the market today!
Children also tend to reach for more fried foods than they should. Even if those chicken fingers no longer have trans fats, they still probably contain more breading than chicken. I've heard parents complain that their children only eat foods that are in a certain form. If your child is used to chicken that comes out of a deep fryer, next time try serving baked or grilled chicken strips that resemble the fried versions. Often times, parents can help a fussy eater by exposing them to more types of foods in different forms.
Buy natural peanut butter that is trans fat-free. I guarantee your child won't be able to tell the difference.
Find healthier snacks to replace the ones with lower nutritional value. High fiber is so important for bowel health and lowering cholesterol! So take the time to compare brands and read the Nutrition Facts Label for those with the highest fiber, vitamin and mineral contents. Give your children water, milk or 100 percent fruit juice to drink. And make sure your children get at least 60 minutes of exercise each day. It doesn't have to be continuous, and it can be fun for the entire family. Put on some music and dance! Let your kids help with the cleaning and gardening. Take them to the playground and play with them on the equipment. Be creative and be their role model for physical fitness.
Years ago, we were eating fewer lean foods. We ate chicken with the skin on it. We cooked with pork fat. Over thirty years ago, doctors were discovering that people as young as 18 already had significant plaque build-up in their arteries! Now we know how to prevent that from happening. Let's send the next generation out into the world with healthy hearts, and good eating habits that will serve them well throughout their lives.
About Felicia D. Stoler:
Felicia D. Stoler is a registered dietitian, exercise physiologist and expert consultant in nutrition and healthful living. She was the host for the reality show, honey We're Killing the Kids on TlC. She specializes in integrating behavior modification to influence positive health outcomes.