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Tips to help avoid childhood obesity

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POSTED March 15, 2009 5:09 a.m.

Growing up “fat” is easy to do when 20 percent of all children eat more than three times a week at a fast-food establishment, 13 percent of their average daily calories come from soft drinks, and the average person consumes approximately 140 pounds of sugar every year. According to the latest estimates, 9 million children in the United States are obese, and this disturbing trend is repeating itself in other countries that embrace a Western diet and sedentary lifestyle.

While childhood obesity cannot be attributed to any one particular influence, studies have shown there are several modifiable factors including inadequate physical activity, sedentary behavior and poor eating habits. These factors are all easily modified when parents recognize how influential they are in these areas, both directly and indirectly.  For example, a parent has direct influence by providing an environment that nurtures physical activity and good eating habits in their child(ren), and has indirect influence through modeling - leading by example.

Encourage Physical Activity: Pick an aerobic physical activity like bicycling, tennis, soccer, etc.; something your entire family will enjoy. Make it a weekly outing at first and then increase it to at least two times a week. If you pick up your children from school, take a few minutes each day and walk a few laps around the school track with them before coming home. (By the way, that’s also a good time to talk about their school day and anything else they may have on their mind.) And if you are a working parent who works out at a gym, check to see if they will allow your 12-year-old (or older) child to at least use the treadmill. Whatever physical activity you choose, pick one the entire family can enjoy. Sometimes, if a child is very active and participates in school sports or Little League, the family may consider game time as family/activity time. This actually can be detrimental to other children in the family, since they may end up sitting ! in the stands the entire time, usually consuming unhealthy food items.

Encourage Good Eating Habits: When making choices to help your child(ren) avoid obesity, consider this: Kids who are physically active and have a diet of fresh vegetables, fruit and healthy protein sources are almost never obese. Here are some ways to create a healthy eating environment:

Plan times when you prepare foods together as a family. Children enjoy participating and can learn about healthy cooking and food preparation.

Avoid rushing to finish meals. Eating too quickly does not allow enough time to digest the food and achieve a sense of fullness.

Avoid other activities during mealtimes such as watching TV or reading.

Have snack foods available that are low-calorie and nutritious. Fruits, vegetables and raw nuts (almonds, cashews, etc.) are good examples.

Avoid serving portions that are too large and thus encourage overconsumption.

Avoid forcing your child to eat if they are not hungry, but do not give in later by allowing them to eat snack foods instead of their regular meal.

Limit fast-food consumption to no more than once every two weeks.

Avoid using food as a reward or the lack of food as punishment.

With all the negative influences out there these days, it’s certainly not easy to establish healthy lifestyle behaviors in your children, but it’s important enough to their health (and yours) to make the effort. Ask your chiropractor for more suggestions to keep your entire family healthy. Our chiropractic office is hosting a “Leprechaun Appreciation Week” March 16-20.  We are offering no charge spinal screenings for your little leprechans (to rule out spinal problems such as scoliosis), raffles, food and fun.  For an appointment, please call our office @ 599-2699

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