Wednesday, September 19

Six Steps to Raising a Healthier Child

By Katherine Matutes

As a nutritionist, I often become concerned whenever I see a child who is evidently overweight or obese. I feel this way because I know childhood obesity is likely to lead to health issues throughout life. 
Nearly two thirds of overweight or obese youth will become overweight or obese adults, according to David Katz, MD, at the Yale PreventionResearch Center. These adults then experience increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. 

I am also keenly aware that the overweight or obese child is likely to suffer from low self esteem, increased social isolation and teasing with studies indicating that obese children report their self perceived quality of life at the same level as children living with cancer.

For parents, there are strategies to help your children live healthier, but they are not always easy to employ and take real commitment to execute.

Parents’ Six Steps for a Healthier Child

Be a good role model – let your child see you making healthy food choices and exercising (even better if you can exercise together). They watch everything you do and although they probably won’t admit it- they emulate your behavior.

Limit screen time to 30 minutes – yes, I said 30 minutes per day. And by screen time, I mean TV watching, computer time or gaming. More time at the screen usually means less time being active.

Get 60 minutes of activity per day – my children’s recess is only 20 minutes per day including the time they line up and walk out to the playground. Don’t rely on school or daycare to provide your child’s daily activity, because they are not getting enough activity at school to meet their needs. Exercise at home needs to contribute to their necessary daily dose of movement.

Eat more fruits and vegetables – strive to make half your plate fruits and vegetables at every meal of the day.

Eat meals together as a family – this is a time for you to be a good role model and also a time to slow down, be mindful of what you are eating and connect as a family.

Seek support from experts – this could be your pediatrician, a registered dietitian or nutritionist.  Losing weight is doubly complex for a growing youth and the media is awash in fad diets and recommendations that aren’t the healthiest way to lose weight. It is very difficult for a parent to wean through the deluge of information available and make the best choice. Recognizing that your child is heading towards a weight issue is the first step, and the most important next step is taking action before it becomes a lifelong battle. 

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