Childhood obesity rates in America have nearly tripled over the past 30 years and are projected to rise. What does this mean today? One in three kids in the U.S. suffers from the epidemic. While these statistics are alarming, there are preventative steps we can take to reduce the occurrence (and our children’s waistlines). September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness month, and it’s a great time to encourage families, educators and communities to take action each day to help families achieve energy balance.
Invite Kids into the Kitchen
Help your kids find their inner chef! Kids are more likely to try new foods that they’ve helped prepare, so let them help by washing fruits and vegetables, mixing ingredients, sprinkling toppings or setting the table. Use math skills with measuring and counting and ask your young chef to read the recipe aloud. Try planning a nutritious meal for each day in September and allow them to help create more balanced meals.
Plan an Unplugged Day
Unplug the television, computer and set digital gadgets aside to spend time outdoors exploring, coloring the sidewalk with chalk, blowing bubbles, hula hooping or playing hopscotch. When you do have the TV on, turn commercial breaks into instant recess. Try jumping jacks, push-ups, crunches or running in place until the show returns. These small but effective steps can help combat childhood obesity and encourage the family to spend more time getting active together.
Make Breakfast an Adventure
Find ways to satisfy their cravings with nutritious foods can be challenging. Appeal to their curiosity when fueling them up for school by using one of these tactics at every breakfast throughout National Childhood Obesity Awareness month.
- Touch: Kids love foods they can feel and hold, such as sliced fruits. For grains like bagels, toast or pancakes, cut it into strips to make quick dippers. Try using a favorite cereal as a topping for plain yogurt with fresh berries.
- Surprise: Encourage your kids to close their eyes, hold out their hands and then guess what their surprise breakfast is.
- Go Wild: Prepare foods in their favorite color – brightly colored fruits and vegetables add needed nutrients to meals and the color choices are almost endless.
- Get it To Go: On busy mornings, put a smoothie or drinkable yogurt in a cup and take it on the go.
What will your family do to achieve energy balance throughout National Childhood Obesity Awareness month?
Heidi Hertz, MS, RD is the Obesity Prevention Coordinator for the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth. Established by the Virginia General Assembly in 1999, the Foundation is responsible for statewide efforts to prevent and reduce youth tobacco use and childhood obesity. The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth directly reaches more than 60,000 children each year through classroom-based prevention programs in public schools, after-school programs, community centers, daycares and prevention programs across the state. For more information, visit www.vfhy.org.