One of our greatest responsibilities is to protect the health and well-being of our children. The United States leads the world in childhood obesity, with nearly one in every three American children classified as overweight or obese.
As concerned adults, there are steps we can take to ensure that the nation’s children lead full and active lives.
• Find a noncompetitive activity in which your child – or you and your child – can participate.
• Allow each family member to choose a destination to visit within predetermined geographic parameters – Disneyland, Lake Tahoe or Santa Cruz. The first person to walk there, in steps measured daily with a pedo-meter, wins an actual trip to the preferred spot with the family. Incentivizing fitness in ways that appeal to children goes a long way in spurring their buy-in.
• Learn a new, active skill together. Consider surfing, rock climbing or mountain biking.
• Establish a family game night that involves active video games such as Wii’s Just Dance. Organize an obstacle course or scavenger hunt around the house or neighborhood.
• Avoid negative self-talk when in the presence of children and strive to focus on the positive. If you are trying to lose weight or get in shape, speak about your efforts constructively – ask for help in sticking to your exercise plan or assistance with planning healthful meals.
• Sit down to meals together, where you can collectively enjoy nutritious food as well as each other’s company. Set a goal as a family to eat a certain number of meals together weekly, not restricted solely to dinner.
• While limiting TV and computer time is a wise idea, eliminating eating while watching TV or working on the computer is a great strategy to increase nutritional mindfulness.
• Allow children to choose recipes or an ingredient from which a meal can be generated. The more invested they are in their food choices, the likelier they are to eat and enjoy them.
• Visit a farm or farmers’ market to bring children raised in an era of convenience a step closer to the source of their sustenance.
• Experiment. Different things work for different people when it comes to lifestyle changes. Be open-minded about new activities, foods or routines. You never know what you might discover.
In this age of technology, we are more virtually connected but have far less physical connection with one another than at any point in history. Food and activity have always been part of social gatherings and celebrations. In modern times, we have allowed gatherings to become a source of stress for many. Take the stress out of the equation, bring the fun back and enjoy some healthful time with family and friends.