I remember when I was in junior high; there was one “big boned” kid. Now, experts use terms like epidemic, pre-diabetic, and obesity to describe what’s happening to kids today. A mixture of video games, social media and Flaming Hot Cheetos are making overweight the norm.
Fighting childhood obesity starts simple: feed your children healthy foods and be active with them. My sister-in-law calls healthy food “grow food” and I love that idea. The biggest thing is to get your children eating vegetables at a young age and continue that trend. Fruit should be an easy sell; it’s sweet so most children have no problem eating it. Fruit can be a dessert. There is no parenting or nutritional guide that says, “Kids need sugary snacks.”
The sky-rocketing rate of diabetes should scare you into making your kids eat healthy. You do not have to become a secret food agent and sneak kale into milkshakes but here are some easy cooking tips:
• Place veggies in any egg/omelet you make
• Keep placing veggies on their plate
• Cut up sweet potatoes, carrots, zucchini and use them in tacos
• Macaroni and cheese, a staple, is easy to add peas to
• Have them help you make an individual pizza and lay out veggies
Fruits are even easier to add to meals. We have to give my two-year-old fruit at the end of the meal and not earlier, or he will only eat the fruit. Almost every meal ends with some fruit for us..With the increasingly high price of fruit, I often buy frozen berries. When the fresh fruit I buy is close to its last leg, I blend it up and then freeze it in ice cube trays or make my own popsicles. I have given popsicles to guests, and they love them! I usually add a little Greek yogurt and water to add protein and cut down on the sweetness. Last week I took all my frozen fruit ice cubes and added a few cups of lemonade, and made an icy fruit punch. My guests drank up the punch and thought it was “fancy.” In general, kids will portion themselves and stop eating when they are full. I’ve noticed with fruit and sweets that it’s best to watch their eating size.
Another food many children skip is protein. I often hear clients tell me their kids love carbs. Since it is essential for brain development and muscle growth, keep protein on the plate. I am lucky; my toddler loves meat and even fish. With all foods, it’s about exposure. Keep cooking or ordering lean meats. The most popular meal in my house is lamb burgers and sweet potato fries (you can make them in your toaster oven by cutting up potato strips thin, place a little olive oil on top and bake for 15-20 minutes). I know people are allergic to everything from strawberries to raw carrots, and especially nuts. If your child is not allergic to nuts and tree nuts, those are great snack foods. If you have a toddler, break the nuts in half or quarter so they don’t choke.
The last area I want to touch on is what my mom called “the idiot box.” I am guilty of turning on the television and letting my son veg out while I do something. I want to shower, or make dinner and my wife is not around, I might throw on some Dora and get to work. However, we go to the park a few times a week, sometimes a few times in one day.
Getting your child active does not have to involve expensive gym classes – it starts with parents. Lead by example and your child will follow. Take your kids on walks, bike rides, and parks. My son has an obsession with birds, so he will literally run around our house or a park chasing birds (I’m hoping this is somewhat normal). Whether it’s your backyard, the neighborhood, or your house, create a space for them to move around. Let your child see that exercise is part of your life. I work out in front of Henry all the time. He usually jumps right in tries to do whatever I’m doing. I have to stop using bands and kettlebells around him for obvious reasons. Somehow bands always end up around his neck.
Now that I have gotten that off my chest, how do you keep your kids healthy? Send me your favorite recipe, exercise, activity, etc. …