Childhood Obesity: Simple Steps for the New School Year

I read this article about childhood obesity over on Yahoo! today and it made me so sad. Of course we have all seen and heard the statistics about our kids getting bigger and less healthy, but for some reason this article really got me thinking. So many of us struggle to make changes in our lives because the changes we need to make seem so big, overwhelming, and frankly,  un-doable.  I think this deer-in-the-headlights phenomenon happens to families when we hear about all the things we should be doing for and with our kids each day: 60 minutes of active outdoor time, 3 home-cooked meals, 30 minutes of reading, plenty of time for free play and spontaneous conversation. Ugh. It’s overwhelming and just not possible for most of us (at least not everyday!).

So after looking at Yahoo!’s article and thinking about the reasons they note for childhood obesity, I am offering some tips for the new school year.  I hope you can find at least one tip to incorporate into your family’s school year routine.

Quit trying to reinvent the wheel.  There are lots of blogs out there that specialize in menus, meal plans and recipes that are simple, cheap, healthy and most importantly: hold their own when it comes to picky eaters.  Some of my favorite sites? Produce for Kids (full disclosure: I am on their advisory board) and Six Sisters Stuff.  Gourmet chefs these folks are not, but who really wants to eat gourmet every night anyway?

Water, water everywhere. We get it: soda pop and juice are pretty bad for us. Try switching just ONE beverage each day to water and go from there.  To make the transition easier, you may want to invest in a cool water bottle, some twisty straws, or my favorites – Red Solo cups!

Forget exercise, let’s just get active. I have tried to stop using the word “exercise” because there are all of about 14 people who actually want to do. “Activity” on the other hand, sounds like a lot more fun and elicits many fewer moans and groans when mentioned.  Activity also includes tons of interesting things that most of us want to do anyway: play badminton, plant flowers, go canoeing, ride bikes to the library and walk around the mall.  This school year, try encouraging (and demonstrating) activity to your kids by planning outings as a family or trying new activities after school.

If nothing else, eat together. We can blame our lack of family dinners on our busy schedules sometimes, but let’s face it: sometimes it’s just lack of motivation, preparation and organization that keeps us from sharing meals together. We know that eating dinner together more often than not helps in all sorts of ways (helps us all eat healthier foods, keeps kids away from drugs, encourages conversation and discourages family stress – check out this article on how and why family dinners are important).  In fact, participating in family dinners seems to be about the most important thing we can do to encourage health in our children.

Want more information and tips?

The Importance of Family Dinners

Making the Most of Dinnertime