Today, nearly one in three children in America are overweight or obese. The numbers are even higher in African American and Hispanic communities, where nearly 40% of the children are overweight or obese. If not addressed, chronic obesity-related health problems like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma will plague this generation.
Granted, our lifestyles are different than back in the “Brady Bunch” era. Back when kids were more active, meals were home-cooked, and fast food/ processed foods were only eaten occasionally. I remember spending all summer and every day after school at my Grandma’s house and being forced to stay outside a play all day. FORCED. The worse thing nutrition-wise she allowed us to have was good ol’ Koolaid (red flavor of course lol).
Today, our children experience a very different lifestyle. No more walking to school, a lot less recess and after-school sports programs and a lot more TV, smart phones, video games and internet. Parents, and grandparents too, are busy trying to make ends meet, especially in single-parent homes, so there is less time and energy to prepare healthy home-cooked meals. But by making a few lifestyle changes, we can help our children, and ourselves, lead healthier lives.
The Let’s Move! initiative, launched by the First Lady Michelle Obama, is dedicated to solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation, so that children born today will grow up healthier and able to pursue their dreams. Here are five steps to success from Let’s Move! specifically for parents to help create a healthy environment for their families.
1. Healthy Snacks: Fruits and vegetables are a natural source of energy and give bodies the nutrients they need to keep going. Try eating fruits and vegetables of different colors to give your family a wide range of valuable nutrients like fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamins A and C. Keep fruits and vegetables within reach and you’re more likely to make healthy choices.
2. Make Physical Activity a Part of Your Family’s Routine: Have your family establish goals that everyone can achieve together. The best way to begin increasing your family’s physical activity is to schedule time for it. Start by identifying at least three 30-minute time slots this week for activities like taking a walk, playing sports or doing active chores.
3. Plan a Healthy Meal: Preparing healthy meals doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive—it just takes planning. Make sure your family eats a healthy breakfast every day. Reducing your family’s sugar intake is as easy as making different choices about what your family drinks. Keep an eye on portion sizes, and eat together as a family.
4. Reduce Screen Time and Get Active: Explain to children that it’s important to sit less and move more in order to stay healthy. Health experts suggest no more than two hours of computer or television time per day unless it’s related to work or homework. Give children ideas and alternatives, like playing outside, picking up a new hobby or learning a sport.
5. Organize a School Health Team: Parents can help schools create an environment that will encourage a child’s overall academic success by taking action to encourage healthy meal options and physical activity programs. All schools that receive support from the USDA are required to develop wellness policies that address school food service and physical activity. Parent members of these groups play a crucial role in creating a healthful school environment.
To learn more about Let’s Move!, go to www.letsmove.gov.
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Jonna "Naturally Glam" is a 30-something naturalista from the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. As she approached 30, she embarked on a few lifestyle journeys – natural hair, health, fashion and beauty. None of which she'd spent any significant amount of time and energy on before. But as she got older and wiser, she felt this was the time to “do her thing” and do it well – but on a budget. Jonna launched her company, Naturally Glam LLC,http://naturally-glam.com, in 2012 to share her natural hair journey, healthy lifestyle journey, “chic for cheap” fashion & beauty tips, and as a means to bring events to her local area that encompassed all of these things.View all Naturally Glam posts.