In the last installment of our four-part series spotlighting Childhood Obesity Awareness month, Texas Children’s Director of Sports Nutrition, Roberta Anding, shares that healthy living should be a family affair.
Currently 18% of children and adolescents are overweight, and most estimates indicate the trend is continuing. So what can parents do? Below are a few tips that not only have the scientific evidence to back them, they work in families committed to change. Yes, it is a family approach that everyone needs to embrace as a lifestyle change.
Your child doesn’t need a diet but your family might need a nutrition make-over!
- No sweet drinks. As a registered dietitian, I used to believe in moderation when it came to sugary beverages. That’s no longer the case. Liquid calories don’t register in the brain as food the same way solid foods do, so they easily go undetected. In fact, ordering a “super sized” sugary drink can add between 600-800 calories to a meal. Don’t forget, sweet drinks come in more forms other than just soda, including fruit punch, lemonade, sweet tea, flavored coffee drinks, energy drinks and sports drinks (when consumed outside of physical activity). Parents, please remove these sugary drinks completely from your grocery list!
- Eat a quality breakfast. Studies indicate that children who consume breakfast have a lower body mass index than those who skip this important meal. Scrambled eggs, whole wheat toast, fresh fruit and milk represent a power breakfast that fuels young bodies and brains. When making breakfast selections think whole foods, with minimal sugar and added fats. Try making a peanut butter sandwich the night before with a juice box of milk for a speedy grab and go breakfast.
- Play. Children should move constantly, and structured exercise programs are not the same as play. Sweating is a good thing – and comes with the territory living in Houston! Make sure your children have water available at all times to stay hydrated. During the summer, turn off the TV and video games, and promote at least 60 minutes of play every day – any movement counts!
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are actually quite delicious! Consider watermelon or sliced peaches with low-fat yogurt, or maybe frozen grapes as a sweet and scrumptious snack. Fruits and vegetables are nutrient powerhouses, great sources of fluid for hydration and rich in antioxidants. Eating plant-based foods also contribute to a higher fiber diet important for natural fullness and digestion. Fruits and vegetables are also great sources of potassium which is needed for normal blood pressure control.