As parents, we are the essential gatekeepers of our children’s health. From the moment we hold them in our arms, we become the decision-makers about the amount and quality of health care our children receive, the food they eat, and the amount of physical activity they engage in.
Healthy lifestyle habits including healthy eating and adequate physical activity, are key to helping prevent our kids from developing health complications during their adolescence and later in life.
Although parents ultimately have the greatest influence over our child’s healthy habits; communities, schools, day care, the media, and the food and beverage industries are just some areas of society that have an impact on our kids health.
Our kids spend the majority of their days in a school setting. Our school systems play a critical role in establishing a safe and supportive environment with policies and practices that support healthy behaviors.
Working Together to Prevent Childhood Obesity
If both parents and schools consciously work together to ensue healthier habits are being enforced, a great stride can be made toward limiting childhood obesity in the United States.
Tips for Parents
Encourage healthy eating habits
- Always have plenty of fruits and vegetables in the house.
- Serve smaller portions and monitor number of servings.
- Encourage your family to drink lots of water.
- Limit soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages.
Make favorite dishes healthier
- Incorporate healthier ingredients into their favorite recipes to ensure they are eating more heart healthy.
Help kids stay active daily
Children and teens should engage in at least 30-60 minutes of physical activity 5-7 days per week. Keep your kids off the couch and away from the video games with activities such as:
- Doing chores
- Playing soccer
Tips for Schools
Make fruits and vegetables easy to grab in the cafeteria
- Move fruits in vegetables to the front of the lunch line.
- Also make fruits and vegetables more attractive to eat (ex: place fresh fruit in a bowl or in tiered stands next to the register as well.
- Have a fresh salad bar with reduced fat dressings made available daily.
Move vending machines with unhealthy snacks away from where kids eat
Make water available everywhere around campus
- Have water fountains present inside and outside on school grounds.
- Replace soda with water in school vending machines.
Put refrigerators in classrooms- Parents maybe more inclined to pack their kids fresh fruit and vegetables knowing they can be refrigerated
Make physical education a required part of school curriculum
- Longer gym periods can help reduce classroom stress.
- Provides regular, healthful physical activity.
- Improves physical fitness and builds motor skills.