Many people believe that kids burn off calories from the food that they eat, and stay fit naturally, simply by playing on the playground at school and spend time running around outside. Perhaps it may have been like this in the past. Obviously this is not the case any more. In our time, numerous children are putting on weight at an alarming rate, and at a very young age. So what can parents do?
The key to success is to incorporate simple solutions, without making huge changes to your lifestyle. Today there is a wide range of opportunities for you and your children to work on getting fit together. How about a kid’s clubs where children can go to work on developing their fitness level? From football to ballet, there is certainly an activity out there to interest every child. How about a family activity? Walks to the park or family bike ride are always enjoyable experiences. Encouraging your kids to play outside not only gets them more active but may also lead to new friendships with other neighbourhood children.
Incorporating healthier eating habits is the next step. A few simple changes to your family’s eating can make a considerable difference to your child’s health. Try reducing snacks, or offering a healthy choice, between meals. If available, children will readily fill up on sweet or salty snacks, which may also be full of unhealthy fats. This type of snacking leads children to eat less of their main meal, which is usually a healthier choice. When serving meals, try to reduce the amount of processed foods that you use; these often contain more sugar, salt and saturated fat than foods prepared from scratch. Consider inviting your child to help in the preparation of family meals. Children who participate in the cooking of their meals become more enthusiastic for the food that they prepare, and with your guidance it will encourage them to try out new and healthier food choices.
Most importantly, children should not be dieting. Being active and eating healthy balanced meals is the best approach to kids’ health. As you may well know, healthy eating includes some degree of fats, as well as a proper balance of lean proteins, carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables. To obtain and maintain a healthy weight for your child, it is important not to reduce their food intake too much. Instead, replace the unhealthy and highly processed foods (sweets, cakes, puddings, soda) from their diet with fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Main meals should consist of mostly fresh vegetables (cooked and raw) served with a smaller portion of whole grain carbohydrates and lean protein. It is important to offer alternate protein choices such as nuts, seeds, beans, dairy products, as well as lean meats. Whole grain carbohydrates (pasta, rice, bread) are a must as they are filling and provide higher nutrition, which will also reduce the need to consume more calories.