Posts Tagged ‘
Childhood Obesity ’
Wednesday, January 30th, 2013
There have been many suggestions that the parental practice of saying “clean your plate” – something many of us heard as kids – is part of the reason why so many kids develop the eating habits that lead to obesity. The reason? There are actually two – parents may be putting too much of the wrong kind of foods on the plate, and as kids get older they tend to eat what they are given (especially when encouraged to do so). Then throw in the typical promise of dessert if the plate gets cleaned, and you can see why it’s easy for kids to start overeating on a regular basis.
So … how should parents rectify this pattern? I posed the question to registered dietitian Karen Avila – and founder of Healthy Karen - and we came up with these tips:
Help kids learn their own signals of when they are getting full – so don’t try to arbitrarily push kids to clean their plate.
Fill up their plate with the proper balance of food types and do encourage them to eat the balanced selection that is nutrient rich – and make sure they aren’t saving vegetables for last. Check out choosemyplate.gov for lots of good advice and concrete tips on what the plate should look like.
Avoid all those unhealthy snacks before dinner time so that they will have an appropriate appetite that will make it easier for them to eat the composition of foods that should be on their plate.
So the big point really is that kids should be encouraged to eat the proper amounts of the right kinds of food. Working with your child to figure out the exact amounts that satisfy them and their nutritional goals is really the strategy – so instead of cleaning their plate (and being rewarded with more food) you will be teaching them to get in the habit of properly feeding their bodies.
Also check out these 5 healthy eating tips for more detailed information from Karen!
Empty Dish via Shutterstock.com
Wednesday, November 21st, 2012
There are times when you read about a new scientific paper that was just published and think (or say) something like:
“Duh. Who doesn’t know this? I can’t believe that money was spent on that!”
Well, this may be one of those studies. But the thing about science is that we don’t get to just think something is one way or the other – we have to prove it. And when the data support what we think – whether or not it’s obvious – it’s a platform for action. So here we go.
A recent study in Pediatrics reported a strong statistical association between levels of parental stress and childhood obesity – more stress was associated with a higher risk of obesity. Part of the reason for this was fast-food consumption – higher levels of parental stress were associated with greater consumption of fast food and higher rates of childhood obesity. And keep in mind the researchers controlled for a whole bunch of other factors.
Now, we all know that when we are stressed, we might be more prone to eat what we shouldn’t. Some of this is psychological – we might crave something that isn’t exactly healthy. We might also be pressed for time – and hence want something fast. The point of this study is that if there is lots of stress – on a daily basis – this can become a habit. And this habit contributes to the obesity epidemic.
Okay, you might be thinking we all know this. Maybe – but this study provided data to support the idea. It could have been that stress is just something that happens to everyone, and those moments of junky eating when highly stressed isn’t what contributes to obesity. But it does. And here’s the other thing about human behavior – even though we know things, that doesn’t mean we are good about acting on that knowledge.
So here’s a good take-home message. Stress happens to everyone – and some people have a lot of stress in their lives. It’s important to try to keep healthy foods within reach. Having good snacks in the car can help stave off the fast-food stress response. Consciously making a healthy choice in a fast-food restaurant – for yourself and your kids – can help too. The obesity epidemic is a real thing, and these kinds of behaviors contribute to it. They become habits, and habits are not easy to break. But becoming mindful of the need to change these habits – especially when supported by scientific studies – is a good step in the right direction.
Fast Food via Shutterstock.com
Categories: Behavior, Health, Must Read, Parenting, Red-Hot Parenting | Tags: Childhood Obesity, Fast-Food, Health, junk food, Kids Health, Parental Stress, Stress
Thursday, October 18th, 2012
New guidelines are emerging – around the world – that toddlers need at least 3 hours a day of physical activity, according to a commentary published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
As explained by Drs. Russell R. Pate and Jennifer R. O’Neill, up until recently national advisory boards have not made specific recommendations for kids under 6 years of age. However, given the increasing rate of weight issues in toddlers—it’s estimated that over 26% of American children between the ages of 2 and 5 years are either obese or overweight—there is a need for developing guidelines on physical activity. They pull on guidelines being offered in Australia, the UK, and via the Institute of Medicine, all of which focus on 3 hours as the minimum daily requirement for physical activity for toddlers.
To make this concrete, they cite a recommendation offered by the Institute of Medicine, which suggests that toddlers in child care get 15 minutes per hour of physical activity.
All of these suggestions don’t specify whether the physical activity is vigorous or moderate. But we all know what it looks like to see kids running and playing and moving. So the idea for parents is to have a look at your kid’s daily routine—both at home and when they are in any form of care—and determine if they are getting the proper amount of physical activity.
I want to bring particular attention to your child’s preschool schedule. There is a growing trend for reductions in preschool play time – drawn in part from perceptions by parents that their kids should spend their time learning “academic” skills and not running around and playing (click here to see a prior blog post on this topic published earlier this year). This is misguided in two ways. First, lots of new studies are showing how physical activity is associated with better school performance for a number of reasons (e.g., burning off some energy can help kids concentrate better, physical activity promotes motor development which is linked with cognitive development). And second, kids simply need physical activity to stay healthy and combat the obesity epidemic which continues to affect more and more kids at younger ages.
Toddler on playground via Shutterstock.com
Categories: Behavior, Health, Intervention, Must Read, Parenting, Red-Hot Parenting | Tags: child care, Childhood Obesity, Health, Kids Health, toddlers, toddlers and physical activity
Thursday, October 11th, 2012
All parents want to make sure their kids have healthy eating habits. But it’s not easy to find simple ways to do this, given the hectic realities of modern day living. So how can you find a balance which gives your kids good basic habits without requiring a major life overhaul?
To get some advice, I contacted Karen Avila. Karen is a registered dietitian with a Master’s degree in Dietetics and Food Administration, and also a Certified Personal Trainer. She is the founder of Healthy Karen where she specializes in medical, pediatric, and sports nutrition, along with weight management. In addition, as a busy mom to two boys, she has gone through her own trials and errors at home that have helped her figure out what works with kids – and especially what works on a regular basis. Here are her 5 most important simple ways to integrate healthy eating habits in your daily routine.
- Make mornings count. Give your kid a healthy high fiber breakfast. Add sliced berries, bananas, or raisins to a high fiber cereal (good choices include frosted shredded mini wheats, Raisin Bran, and 100% All Bran). When selecting a bread, make sure that the first ingredient is “whole wheat or grain” – and choose a bread with the least number of ingredients. Another good quick breakfast is a smoothie with peanut butter and banana. Breakfast is really important for kids and you want to find something nutritious that they like and will eat on a regular basis. Click here for some great breakfast recipes and more advice on breakfast from Karen.
- Limit juice and sport drink intake. These drinks are loaded with empty calories and kids often fill up on them rather than nutrient rich foods – and keep in mind that sports drinks are a leading cause of tooth decay in teens. As a compromise, you can at least water down your kids sport drink and/or juice. And try to promote some water drinking, especially when kids are thirsty (say after sports or dance). They’ll be happy to drink the water and it’s a way to get it into their daily routine.
- Provide good tasting alternatives to junk food. You don’t have to completely eliminate junk food in the house. But, you can reduce how much your kids eat, and give them healthy alternatives that they will like. Put out veggies and healthy dips during snack time on a regular basis. Keep putting them out. Your kids will start eating them, especially if there is nothing else to choose from. Some other ideas – you can add ground flax to homemade brownies and baked goods, and substitute applesauce for vegetable oil to make a healthier version of your child’s favorite baked goods.
- Have healthy snacks available in your car. With everyone’s busy schedules, parents and kids spend lots of time in the car. To avoid making a pit stop at a fast food joint a routine while on the road, pack healthy foods. These can include nuts, fruit, and whole grain crackers. You all can have a good snack and be ready for a healthy dinner later on.
- Don’t forbid foods. All these tips are ways of encouraging healthy eating habits in kids. Actively forbidding foods always backfires – it just makes kids want these foods more. But practicing moderation and setting limits is very important. If your kids like sugary junk cereal, let them have a small box one morning on the weekend – as long as they eat their power breakfast during the week. By buying small boxes (let your kid pick it out) and making only one box available for that breakfast, you are helping your child understand how to have some of the junk food they like without eating too much of it, or eating it too frequently.
Lastly, Karen suggests that you should follow these guidelines as well for yourself. By being a role model for your child, and getting them started on healthy eating habits early in life, they will have a platform for good health that will have a huge impact on their future.
Mother and daughters cooking together via Shutterstock.com
Categories: Behavior, Health, Must Read, Parenting, Red-Hot Parenting | Tags: Childhood Obesity, Health, healthy eating, healthy snacks, junk food, Kids Health, restricting food
Monday, September 3rd, 2012
Earlier today I watched a segment on the Today show about the current effort by retailers to provide plus sizing for girls at most ages (including toddlerhood). The question: is this labeling the wrong way to go?
Look, it’s clear that there are a variety of body types at all ages for girls. There is, also, the current obesity epidemic in this country that is requiring that more and more girls need larger sizes. So providing size choices at all ages – in stores and online – makes sense. Retailers are there to sell clothes, and kids (and parents) don’t want to be restricted in terms of what styles they can choose from.
But from my vantage point, do we need to use the phrase “Plus Sizes”? To me, it sounds like the fashion equivalent of doing a bad job of “mainstreaming” – you’re just like all of the ”normal” girls, except that you are a “plus size.” Do we need a “Too Skinny” section too?
I get that the retailers want to be sure that parents know that there is a concerted effort going on to be sure any girl can select from any style in most stores. But couldn’t a marketing campaign simply state that there is a full range of sizes available? I think most parents are comfortable sorting through either numeric sizing or abbreviations. I wonder if retailers like Sears consulted with developmental experts – rather than just marketing professionals – who might have helped them craft a better message. Yes, I’m guessing that retailers don’t really think through the deeper issues for kids, and focus myopically on target audiences and sales potential, even though a more suitable balance could be achieved.
If you saw the segment on the Today show, you heard an articulate 11-year-old (who purchases “plus size” clothes) who seems much wiser than the retailers these days. (If you didn’t catch it, check the Today show website and see if it is posted there). She said that she likes being able to go to the mainstream stores and be able to buy what all the other girls can buy (which wasn’t always the case). She also suggested that stores can simply rely on sizing and not the “plus size” labeling. And she plans to launch her own line of fashion someday that avoids unnecessary, and potentially undermining, labeling. I hope she does!
Sizes via Shutterstock.com
Categories: Behavior, Health, Must Read, Parenting, Questions, Red-Hot Parenting, Stories | Tags: Childhood Obesity, girls clothing, Health, Kids Health, mainstreaming, Plus sizes for girls, Sears, stereotyping, Today show