OBESITY PREVENTION AND YOU: TO PARENTS
Many times I am asked what are a few straightforward and simple things I can do as a parent to help prevent obesity in my own child. And while there are some more thorough discussions I have written in other articles on this website and on obesityprevention.org, I will describe here a few of the most important steps you can take today to prevent childhood obesity at home.
- Set a great example. Parents are powerful influences on children, but we lead more by example than by words so you must walk the walk quite literally speaking. Be active and keep your own weight at a healthy level. Avoid eating high calorie, high carb food, snacks and treats so you set the example for your child.
- Read every label and encourage your children to read every label. While the labels can be confusing and full of lots of useless information, they do contain some important bits of information so that you should encourage your child to always be aware of. And here they are: One, know the number of calories in every serving that you eat. And two, know the number of grams of carbohydrates or sugars in everything you eat. That’s enough, that’s all you really need to focus on and the rest will take care of itself if you stay mindful of these two figures.
- Protein first. This means every time you prepare a meal or snack you should be thinking about protein first and foremost. Protein provides greater satisfaction and does not result in immediate sense of rebound hunger like sugar does. As a parent you are well aware of the sugar rush followed by the sugar crash, but you may not be as aware of the surges in hormones produced by sugar intake and how those result in rapid resurgence of hunger within about an hour. Protein satisfies. It is a good, healthy source of calories and don’t worry, your child will get plenty of carbs even without trying. Let the protein (cheese sticks, protein bars, beans, nuts, meats and fish) satisfy them and they won’t be hungry for junk food so fast.
- Clear out the pantry. That’s right, you got it, this is tough love, but you need to get rid of all the high carbohydrate, high calorie snacks and treats, M&Ms, Ding Dongs, candies, chips and all those goodies that kids (and everyone else) love to eat. It’s not doing anyone any good. Stock your house instead with fresh fruits and vegetables and your kids will be just fine. In fact they will be far healthier and less overweight as a result. Sometimes parents tell me “my kid won’t eat anything but junk food.” Trust me, if the house is full of delicious fruits and veggies and there is no junk food in the house then he or she will eat what is available and learn to love it.
- Stay active and have fun at it. Every kid should have 30-60 minutes of regular exercise every single day. So make it a priority and find ways to make sure your kid is getting that activity. Yes schools have cut physical education and we as parents no longer let our kids run loose in the neighborhoods like our parents did, but with a little effort you can certainly come up with an hour of physical activity for your kid. Better yet do it with them. Ride bicycles, take a hike, take the dogs out, sign up for sports, lessons, competitions, meets and tournaments. Make sports and physical activity fun. Find something your kid enjoys and support them. Time will be a great investment in your child’s health.