4 Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthfully
We’ve been hearing it for over a decade now: Our kids are getting heavier. One in three of our youngsters are overweight or obese. Prevalence of childhood obesity has tripled since the 1970’s, and is now America’s number one health concern for parents, even over drug and alcohol use. But these are things we already know. The more interesting topic is: What are we doing about it? As a country? A community? As parents?
The government is trying its best by changing the school lunch guidelines, which will continue to slowly change until 2022. However, some might argue not slowly enough. Though the initial hype has gone down, kids are still retaliating and complaining of the severe changes made in the school system. But we’ve got to start somewhere, right? You might be in this same boat. “I’ve got to do something to improve my child’s health, but where do I start?”
If this is you, take a couple minutes and browse these four simple suggestions.
1. Start with Breakfast
Ah yes, breakfast. The most important meal of the day they say! Well, it’s true. Kids are skipping breakfast more now than they ever have in the past, for two reasons. First, we as parents have schedules so jammed they rival Smuckers Grape. Secondly, our kids are busier than ever, too. With the highly competitive and intense nature of sports and academia in our current school system, our kids now have activities before AND after school. But this only means eating breakfast is even more critical. Studies have shown links between breakfast eaters and better performance in school, better concentration throughout the entire school day, healthier weight, and less overall daily saturated fat intake than their non-breakfast eating counterparts.
Having something as simple as a breakfast-on-the-go bar ready for your child to grab on their way out the door is far better than nothing, and will help to rev up your child’s metabolism. Want them to have something homemade? Something as easy as a couple of hard-boiled eggs and a piece of 100% whole grain toast will do. Or, try making a batch of breakfast burritos on Sunday, individually wrap them and throw them in the freezer. These will be easy to pop in the microwave in the morning and can be taken on the go (this is an easy way to sneak in some veggies first thing in the morning).
2. Knowledge is Power
This option works a little better with older children, but you can never start teaching and empowering your kids too early! Instead of making all the decisions for your children on healthy eating, why not teach them how to make healthy choices and read food labels for themselves? The sooner our kids start glancing at nutrition fact labels, the easier it will be for them to take this habit on into adulthood. If it is age appropriate, try a nutrition fact label scavenger hunt at the grocery store. For example, “Find a loaf of bread with at least 5g of fiber per serving.”
Another powerful tool to provide your child with is how to understand their own body signals. A large issue, with both adults and child, is that we can’t tell when we’re truly hungry or truly full (and feeling stuffed doesn’t count). Teach them there’s a difference between being bored and actually being hungry, this will be another valuable habit many of us wish we had attained earlier. Try this Mindful Eating exercise.
Yoga is one way to get in touch with one’s own body signals; to learn to listen and feel what your body needs. Kids yoga is becoming increasingly popular and can help your child get in tune with his or her own body at an early age. There are several studios in Omaha that provide this and for different age groups. For example, Lotus House of Yoga provides these almost every Saturday.
Lastly, educate yourself! Do you know where your child is at for their weight/height? Not all doctors have this discussion at annual check-ups, and regular adult BMI calculators cannot be used for children as they don’t account for growth. Check out this KidsHealth BMI Calculator to help determine if you should be concerned about your child’s weight.
3. Try “Kid Friendly”
Think it will be impossible to get your child to try a new fruit or veggie? Many youngsters today are a little hesitant to try something new, especially if it’s a plant. Try familiarizing them with these unsuspecting, veggie-focused, kid-friendly recipes. Not only do they taste good, but they’re a fun way to get your kid to explore the kitchen!
4. Try a Local Program
Another great place to jump-start your child’s health is to get them involved in a local program, where they can grow and learn new healthy behavior with peers and friends. Live Well Omaha Kids and CHI Health has a wide variety of programs to help your kids and the whole family learn to practice a healthier lifestyle. Check out these program descriptions under the Our Programs sections of the LiveWell Omaha Kids website.
CHI Health Lakeside also provides a program called HealthWorks. This is a great option for parents and teens to do together (ages 15 +). This program includes a membership to the Lakeside Wellness Center and access to wonderful health coaches and education sessions. To sign up or ask questions, please contact a health coach at (402) 572-2333.
Or, do you feel like you’ve tried everything, and need to have a different discussion about your child’s health? CHI Health Weight Management has programs designed to cater to both adults and children with more serious weight loss needs, which can include surgical and meal replacement options. To get the discussion started, call (402) 572-2333 and ask to speak with a health coach.
Now, remember, the most successful changes are done slowly and gradually. You may want to implement all these ideas at once, but while children are adaptive, they’ll feel more successful if we don’t turn their whole lives upside down!
For now, we live in a world where it’s OK for food companies to add sugar and other ingredients to our food supply to make them taste better, and truly addictive. Until this problem changes, we need to protect our kids by educating them and being healthful role models ourselves. No matter where you decide to start with your child’s health, the change is going to start with you.
This blog post originally appeared on the Live Well Omaha Kids site. Live Well Omaha Kids is CHI Health’s community coalition.