Obesity is a problem that many children face. Unfortunately, it is a problem that is getting worse. About 10 percent of four and five year olds are obese, and about 20 percent of children between the ages of six and eleven are obese. This problem is not all genetics. There are things that parents can do to prevent their children from becoming obese. The earlier you start promoting healthful habits in your kids, the better off they will be when they get older and you have less control over what they eat and how much they exercise.
Limit Candy and Cookies
Kids love candy and cookies, but that doesn’t mean that they should be a regular part of their diet. The chances are pretty good that your child will be given candy and cookies at places like day care, Sunday school, and at friends’ houses; you can limit the amount they get at home. You don’t have to have sweets in your house at all times; when you do give them a cookie, let them have one (or two) and then put the package back in the cupboard, out of sight.
Try to have fruit in your house. I try to buy fruit on a regular basis. If they’re hungry, they can have an apple, banana, grapes, or whatever happened to be on sale when I went to the grocery store.
Watch What They Drink
In order to prevent obesity in your child, it is important to watch what they drink. This includes limiting juice and eliminating most soda.
Nobody needs soda, and there’s no reason why young children should drink it at home. I know parents who put soda into their child’s baby bottles. Although it is best if you don’t drink soda, if you do drink it, it is okay to tell them that soda is not good for them and you want them to grow up to be healthy and strong, so they can’t have any. Kids know that there are some things that adults can do that they can’t. It may not be possible to avoid all soda. If you limit your child’s soda intake to special occasions and occasional trips to the restaurant, they will be better off.
You can limit the amount of juice your child drinks as well. It doesn’t matter if it says “100% juice” on the package or not; it still contains a lot of sugar. If your children are used to drinking a lot of juice, they may rebel when you start limiting the amount that they get. We took it out of our house entirely for a while. We have a water cooler where they can help themselves to as much cold water as they want, and they can have milk. We buy juice on occasion; they appreciate it a lot more when it’s not always in the house.
Encourage Your Kids to Move
In addition to limiting sweets and junk foods in your children’s lives, it’s important to encourage your kids to move. This could be as easy as sending your kids outside to play, especially if the weather is nice. You might want to limit video games. If you have a little extra money, get your kids involved in sports. Your child might be interested in team sports like soccer, baseball, football, or basketball; not all kids excel on a team though. Individual sports like gymnastics, cheerleading, karate, or swimming might be more interesting to your child; these might cost more than team sports, but the investment in classes is worth it if it keeps your child healthy. Most places offer discounts if you enroll more than one child. You can also go on walks or bike rides with your children to get them outside and moving.
It’s easier to teach your child healthy habits while they are small, rather than waiting until they are older and have access to their own money that they can spend on junk food and are freer from your oversight.
Preventing Childhood Obesity: Tips for Parents. New York State Department of Health.