At University Avenue Dental we know that we all want the best for the kids in our lives. We work hard every day to provide for them and plan for their futures. But according to the latest statistics, 1 in 5 of our children is facing a serious risk to their health due to childhood obesity.
September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month to help bring attention to this serious matter. This issue has steadily been on the rise for the last decade and has now reached epidemic levels.
Over the last few decades, our lifestyles and diets have changed dramatically. We work longer hours, fast food and take-out options have become a daily part of life, and electronic devices have replaced physical activity. This has created a circle of fatigue that supports an unhealthy lifestyle.
The risks are staggering. It used to be the medical opinion that overweight children were at a higher risk of developing certain health issues later in life. These days we are seeing them develop these issues NOW.
Many of the health issues children are facing were once thought to be for the 40 and above the crowd. These include type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease. The figures are rising dramatically each year.
In addition to the medical issues, children who are obese are also at a higher risk for emotional issues like depression and low self-esteem.
As alarming as these statistics are, there is hope. With small and consistent changes, kids can reclaim their health and set themselves up for a much brighter future. With youth on their side, many kids can leave even existing health problems behind.
While there is no “one size fits all” solution to this issue, there are MANY small and simple things you can do to impact the health of your children (and yourself!) each day. The problem of childhood obesity didn’t start overnight, nor will it be solved overnight. Small changes every day create a healthier future for you and your children!
Children have specific nutritional needs, so no restrictive diets (eliminating one or more food groups) should be started without doctor supervision. Getting your child a check-up at their pediatrician and understanding any specific challenges or goals involved is the best place to start any health improvement plan.
Rather than feeling overwhelmed, try picking one or two things from the list below to try this week. Keep your message positive; remember it’s FUN to feel good and try new things! Once a change is a comfortable part of your child’s life, add in another one.
Stand up and start moving: Keep it simple to start. Take a walk together after dinner. Instead of playing video games, play a game on Wii Fit. Find resources for age-appropriate ways to incorporate exercise into your family’s routine, like these ones: how to lose weight while hanging with your kids and Exercise With Kids
Create a Pinterest board: Search for and Pin some new healthy recipes and activities with your child, then cook and play your way through them. Shop and cook together if possible, empower your child to find and create healthy, delicious food! Set a goal to try one new food a week. Follow these boards for great ideas to get you started!
Use electronics to your advantage: There are several apps out to challenge kids and keep them moving while being engaged. Click here to find some of your kids will love.
Try substitution: Do your kids love chips? Substitute air-popped popcorn. Try experimenting with herbs to add more flavor! Hooked on pop? Substitute seltzer water with a little fruit juice. Look for healthy versions of your favorite foods to make at home.
Connect to your community: Look for family-friendly exercise groups, sign up for a local 5k to help set goals, join the community center or local family fitness club to connect with others looking to improve their health and have fun doing it!
Whether your goal is to prevent or to address the issue of childhood obesity, it can feel very overwhelming. Facing it with your child as a partner for their success and focusing on small changes that can lead to big results will help keep it in perspective.
Being reasonable in goals and expectations will help prevent burnout. Keeping the message positive and fun will keep things on track. Your child may find a new passion they never even thought about before! And best of all, they will find out how much better life can be when you FEEL good!
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