On our road to a healthy lifestyle we want to take our families with us. Creating a healthy home environment is very important and can impact our children for life. Childhood Obesity is a growing problem in American Culture and is associated with many negative health risks. Some of them are:
- CV Disease
- Asthma/Sleep Apnea
- Adult Obesity
- Type II Diabetes
- Fatty Liver
(Genetics predispose an individual toward obesity but he family environment acts as the catalyst for expression of the obesity gene)
There are 3 Areas we as Parents can Focus on to help Prevent Childhood Obesity.
1. Child-Feeding Practices:
- Mimic Behavior: Children mimic the eating behaviors of their parents and their actions contribute to what the child eats and how frequently. Children observe everything that is going on around them and they certainly notice what foods we eat, how much we eat, and in what manner we eat our food. We must beware of the ever watching eyes and set the example that we would want our children to follow.
- Parental Control: The main key to remember here is not to “Force” your children when it comes to food. Try not to force a clean plate when child is eating, this will hinder their ability to self-regulate their intake. They wont know how to listen to what their body is saying whether it is full, satisfied, or hungry. Don’t force a child to eat a certain food in order to receive a treat. (if you don’t eat all your carrots you wont get a cookie) This teaches the child to dislike the carrots and associate a negative response to them where on the other end the cookie seems desirable and is more sought after. Parents should also not use food as a reward or withhold it as a form of punishment. Foods only purpose is to nourish our bodies and should not be used for any other purpose.
- Parent’s and Child’s Responsibility: Parents main responsibility when it comes to eating is providing a healthy array of food for the child at every meal. Try and put new foods on the plate and introduce new flavors for the child to try. The child is responsible for how much they want to eat. They can decide if they want to eat what is given to them or not.
2. The Food Environment:
- Children like and eat what is familiar to them. They like foods that their parents like and have available in the home. If you want your child to be well rounded with variety of foods then make them available in the home. Children often need 5-10 exposures to a food before they will accept it.
- Set up a healthy environment in your home. Try having a bowl of fruit out on the counter instead of a cookie jar. Have veggies and other healthy snacks in easy to grab areas. Eat your meals at a table sitting down where you can show good eating habits to your child.
3. Physical Activity Patterns:
- Children not only mimic their parents eating habits but also their physical activity patterns. Let your child see you working out and know how important it is to you. If its important to you then it will be important to them. Do physical activities with your child. Run around with them outside, take them to the park, play sports with them, anything that gets you both moving together to build happy memories around physical activity. Sign your kids up for a class or a recreational activity that they can participate in. Key here is to decrease the number of hours spent sitting around being sedentary and replacing them with more active ones.
Lets reverse the pattern of increasing childhood obesity and start by making our homes a healthy environment for our children. If we can teach/show a healthy lifestyle for our children then when they grow up and leave home they will be prepared with all the tools they will need.