Instituting healthy eating habits and packing healthy lunches can help to lower obesity rates in Children.
As found on the CDC website…”The prevalence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 more than doubled in the past 20 years, going from 6.5% in 1980 to 17.0% in 2006. The rate among adolescents aged 12 to 19 more than tripled, increasing from 5% to 17.6%. Obesity is the result of caloric imbalance (too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed) and is mediated by genetics and health. An estimated 61% of obese young people have at least one additional risk factor for heart disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In addition, children who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem. Obese young people are more likely than children of normal weight to become overweight or obese adults, and therefore more at risk for associated adult health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. Healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases.” The good news is that preventing obesity is in our control and we can start by getting a handle on what and how we feed our children.
Let’s go back in the past for a moment. Do you remember how simple lunches at school use to be? The lunches were prepared in the cafeterias by the cafeteria workers. I remember having something from every major food group. Often the vegetables were provided from local growers. There were no pre-packaged highly processed meals loaded with MSG and preservatives like the ones our children are being fed today. It can safely be stated that today, school cafeterias are partly the reason why American children are experiencing obesity. As to not lay all of the blame on the School cafeterias, we parents, must take ownership of this problem as well. Our schedules are busy and often we provide the processed foods for our children’s lunches because of the convenience. Because of how food is mass produced, processed and packed today we can no longer take for granted that we are getting the same necessary nutrition we receive when shopping at the butchers, the local grocers, gardens or farmers markets. This task seems huge but necessary when we see the detrimental effects of our love ones. We must change the way we feed our children. We must teach them to eat to live rather than to live to eat. Children must also be educated on how food directly relates to their health. It is imperative that our children understand the relationship between their health and the food that they consume. In addition, as parents we must become agents of change in our communities as well. We must stress to our officials the importance of the schools providing healthy meals to our children while they are in school. In the meantime, as parents we must take the time to prepare our children fresh homemade meals and lunches to take to school.
According to Ann Cooper and Lisa M. Holmes, authors of “Lunch Lessons”, as a parent if you are armed with the simple tools like being a good role model for kids, taking the kids to shop for food with you, making mealtime specials, etc. ( see the entire list of tools complete with explanations on how to use) combined with a mantra of “variety, moderation and balance” you will have all you need ensure long-term nutritional health for your children.
The tools mentioned above are invaluable in preparing your children for a healthy lifestyle. As mentioned before we must take the time to prepare fresh food for our children. In order to do this we must become more organized to the point of developing routines. For instance take the time to plan breakfast, lunch and dinner menus for the week. Make a grocery list to support your menu plans. Make sure to shop for fresh, healthy items. Lunch can be prepared from leftover dinner. Here are some tips to make that work…
To prevent lunch time leftovers boredom, send sandwiches. Be sure to use whole grain where possible. Sandwiches can be made using tortillas, sliced bread, bagels, crackers, English muffins, rice cakes, flat breads or rolls. Some interesting sandwich fillings can include but are certainly not limited to…
I’d be remised if I didn’t mention beverages for their lunch boxes. Water should be the primary hydration for kid. Water is important for the body and brain health of growing kids. It is recommended that they have at least 8 glasses a day. Children will most likely choose the sugary drinks over water. However, it will be up to you as the parent to provide them with water. If your children have to have flavored drinks, there are alternatives to the sugared ones. Such as:
While packing your children’s lunches be mindful of their nutritional needs. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, children ages 2 to 6, require about 1600 calories a day. Most children over 6 and teen girls, require about 2200 calories per day. Teen boys need about 2800 calories a day.
In conclusion, we have to be mindful of what we teach our children about nutrition, what and how we feed them and what they eat relates to health. Eating is learned behavior. Also, remember we are what we eat: good or bad