Today’s post is sponsored by Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center, and is written by Elise Mische. Elise is a registered dietitian with Saint Mary’s Fitness Center where she serves as the Nutrition and Weight Loss Specialist. She volunteers year-round with the Nevada Diabetes Association, working at their camp programs and providing nutrition education to children ages 7-17 and their families. Previously, she worked as the Nutritional Coordinator for an Los Angeles-based food company where she developed nutritionally-balanced meal programs for weight loss and maintenance. As both a registered dietitian and an Italian who loves to eat, she constantly strives to find ways to make nutritious foods taste even better to help clients stay on track and meet their personal health goals.
While we are all aware that rates of childhood obesity in America are at a rapid incline, we may not truly understand its immediate implications. Symptoms of heart disease, the number one cause of death in America, are now being detected as early as childhood. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It is likely due to this that the American Academy of Pediatrics recently revised their guidelines for annual well-child visits, now recommending that all children between the ages of 9 and 11 get lipid panel testing. Typically considered an “adult onset” disease, overweight children are now at a greater likelihood of developing prediabetes, and are placed at an immediate risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem (AAP, CDC).
The Role of Parents
By helping our children develop the right food attitudes, behaviors, and skills early in life, will make a direct and positive impact on their health and lifestyle choices well into their adult years. Conversely, allowing children to develop poor eating habits and behaviors practically guarantees food challenges down the road. Think of any habits you personally have tried to modify or break in your own life. It’s unlikely you were able to change them overnight or without setbacks or challenges. The earlier we start on good behaviors, the easier it will be for our children down the road.
It Starts With You
Parents who grumble about veggies or protest about exercise can be sure that their children will soon be mirroring these same attitudes. Set a good example with not just your words, but also with your actions:
* Pack nutritious lunches for yourself and prepare most meals at home
* Plan well-balanced meals: fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins
* Prepare nutritious and sensible snack choices and limit desserts to the occasional treat
* Get excited about exercising and eating right and explain how they make you feel good and benefit your health
Get Children Involved In Their Own Health
One of the best ways to teach children about their own health is to get them involved!
* Have children pick out one of their favorite fruits or vegetables for healthy “snack packs” for school or home
* Enlist them in the selection of the super special vegetable that will be the star tonight’s dinner
* Allow them help you prepare parts of a meal, such as shucking corn, peeling carrots, washing produce, add toppings to plates
* Teach them how to build their own healthy lunch and have them help you prepare them – the more colorful fruits and vegetables the better!
* Children take pride in things they are involved with and are more likely to jump on board when they have played a part
As parents, you play a vital role in the food attitudes and behaviors that your children develop. The good news is that you can – and ought to — work on being a healthier family together: meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, and physical activity should be a group effort rather than a one-woman job. By setting good examples and enlisting their help, we can children adopt smart food choices and exercise habits to carry them through a healthy and active adulthood.
To learn more about childhood, tween, teen, and family nutrition, join us for our next round of the food-and-lecture based course Healthy Lunchbox starting October 7th and running through October 28th. Members $99/Non-members $149. For questions please contact Elise Mische, RD, LD at EMische@primehealthcare.com or (775) 770-7898.