Jun 17, 2015

Posted by in Cardiac, Diabetes, Family Practice, General, Nutrition | 0 Comments

I Worry: Childhood Obesity

Childhood ObesityWe’re hearing more and more about childhood obesity, and with good reason. It’s a real problem, and it’s not getting better. You see it on the news all of the time and the data is not good. In fact, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health, 39 percent of Iowa children in grades 3-5 are overweight or obese. And while a variety of strategies have been proposed to combat the problem, not a lot has gotten better.

I talked with Cathy Pollock, Education Dietitian in Nutrition at Pella Regional, to get her thoughts on the subject:

Fewer calories in
Improving nutrition begins with parents at the store. Kids will eat whatever is readily available. If we want our kids to eat fewer cookies and more apples, then we need to buy more apples and fewer cookies. Experimenting with new and healthy food options could be the trick to getting kids to expand their culinary horizons beyond Pop-Tarts and Macaroni and Cheese.

Another easy way to reduce calories is by cutting back on sugary drinks. A 20-ounce bottle of regular soda can contain 250 calories – 13 percent of your recommended daily calories! Kids may think sports drinks like Gatorade are healthier, but those also have a lot of calories. Drinking water is always your best bet.

Additional calories out
Unfortunately, a decline in kids’ physical activity has been linked to a dramatic increase in screen time. Kids need exercise. Regular physical activity has a variety of benefits. While it is helpful in maintaining a healthy weight, it also increases strength and agility.

While many kids are involved in sports activities, it is also worthwhile to develop personal, lifelong exercise habits they can take with them after their baseball or soccer team stops playing.

Parents and children can also work together as family by taking more walks or visiting the playground. Establishing a healthy routine of physical activity is a great life skill to pass along to your children.

Quick tips

  • Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables per day
  • Limit television or computer “screen time”
  • Get at least one hour of physical activity
  • Eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages.

My kids get a ton of physical activity and I’m pretty good about limiting screen time. Where my family can do a much better job is in the area of nutrition. We do better in some areas in the summer months, like eating more fruits and vegetables as they are more readily available in our garden. But we do much worse with others, like eating processed foods since we’re running around and most of our meals are in the car.

I know a lot of these changes start with me-ugh. There are times when the task seems insurmountable, but I do need to make a better effort since these are lifelong habits that I’m instilling in my children and I want those habits to be positive rather than negative! How would you rate yourself/your family in these areas?

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