As a mother, a teacher, and a youth softball coach, I interact with children an awful lot. Over the last few years, since I have learned the value of good nutrition, I made it a goal of mine to teach children around me good eating habits as well.
Obesity is on the rise in this country. One out of every 3 children is now considered overweight, or obese. Partially due to their sedentary lives, children spend much of their time watching television, playing video games or tooling around on the computer.
While genetics plays a role, it cannot explain the obesity crisis we face. Believe it or not, children enjoy nutritious foods, but when tempted by the fast-food industry and the plethora of sugar-filled snacks offered today, they choose the latter.
Acclimating To A Healthier Lifestyle
Preventing obesity means adjusting, or acclimating children to a healthier lifestyle. Much of what is eaten now-a-days is quick and easy, from fatty fast food restaurants to microwave and prepackaged foods. Portion sizes are extremely high. Take all of this into account, and we can better understand why children are more susceptible to being overweight.
I decided, some time ago, to make a diary of what I was feeding my children. I wanted to break down the nutritional content of the foods they were consuming to see if they were getting the vitamins, fats, carbohydrates and protein needed in their diets.
I thought I was doing a good job, but was shocked to see the outcome. There was way too much sugar, not nearly enough protein and they were not receiving the recommended vitamin intake. A change had to be made.
We are an extremely busy family. Two working parents, all three children go to karate twice a week, and all three do an additional sport each season. My husband and I both coach our children and I am a bodybuilder, going to the gym 6 days a week. There are days that we leave the house at 7 a.m. and do not return until 8 p.m.
How was I going to provide them with nutritious meals on the go? The first thing I did was pre-plan everything that was going to be eaten for the week.
Giving Them A Choice ///
I sat down with my kids and talked about the necessary changes we needed to make and the adjustments we needed to make to their diet. I gave them a breakdown of what they needed and allowed them to make the choices. That right there was the breaking point! I allowed them to choose.
For my youngest son, who was only 4 at the time, I cut out pictures of foods. I gave him paper plates and had him 'make' his own meals. I never allowed my kids to buy school lunches. I now let them create their own, choosing the contents of their lunch bags from the choices I gave them.
Getting Enough Protein? ///
My biggest problem was protein. My children did not get the protein they needed, and it was tough getting it ingested. Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) updates from the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences recommend that children 1-3-years old intake 1.1 grams/kg body weight/day, children 4-13-years old, 0.95g and children 14-18-years old, 0.85g.
My kids began to add other ingredients to their shakes. Instead of eating a piece of fruit, they dropped it in the blender with their milk and powder. They started having contests with each other: who could make the best shake.
They make Reeses cup (milk, chocolate powder, and peanut butter), Monkey Madness (milk, vanilla powder, banana and peanut butter), Super Hero (Orange juice, vanilla powder, and berries) and Banana Bananza Pie (milk, vanilla powder, bananas and graham crackers) to name a few. While making the shakes is fun, naming them is a blast! And when their friends come over, they include them too.
Being A Good Role Model ///
Research shows that people in the same family tend to have similar eating patterns. Adults are role models in sports, music, leadership, etc. Adults also set the stage for children's eating habits. They follow your lead and adopt the same attitudes toward eating patterns.
As parents, we need to enforce the importance of good eating habits. As educators, we need to enforce the importance of good eating habits. As coaches, we need to enforce the importance of good eating habits.
A treat here and there is not going to kill us. It's moderation and portion size that concerns me most. It's the class party with cupcakes, donuts, cookies, chips, candy and juice. The plates made by the children must contain 100 grams of sugar and 50 grams of fat! Can we be advocates for our children and request healthy snacks? Kids love carrots and ranch, apples and peanut butter, fresh fruit with a dab of whipped topping, etc.
Like I said earlier, we live in a busy world. Time never seems to be on our side. But taking the few extra moments to prepare something more nutritious for our kids will be worth it in the end. Studies also show that students who eat a nutritious breakfast have higher test scores and tend to eat less at lunch. Take the pop tarts out of the cabinet and replace them with real fruit, yogurt and whole wheat toast for breakfast.
Get Them Moving ///
Our children must be active. Limit the amount of television. Again, give them choice. Designate a set number of hours per week. Once that is up, the T.V. is off limits. I used T.V. tickets at one time. Each ticket was worth 30 minutes of T.V. Before my kids could turn on the T.V., they had to give me a ticket. Once they were out of tickets, they had no more T.V. privileges.
Get your child involved in a sport, or encourage a youngster you know to participate in one. Sports give children activity, confidence, responsibility, and the skills to work with others.
A child who eats healthy foods today will be more likely to make better food and nutrition choices as adults. A child who is active today will be more likely to be active as an adult. Children who eat unhealthy food choices today will be more likely to make poor food and nutritional choices as adults. An inactive child today will be more likely to be inactive as an adult.