Preventing Childhood Obesity

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If you read The Onion, you know it has a disturbing tendency to report things as they really are, with a bite. It does not disappoint with “Preventing Childhood Obesity.” It lists a mix of the sad and absurd, all with underlying facts, including:

  • Avoid buying unhealthy foods, such as anything marketed to the American consumer.
  • Set a good example by choking down a salad in front of your kids.
  • Make healthy tweaks to favorite dishes, cutting back on the salt, fat, and sugars that are the sole basis of their appeal.
  • Obesity has a large genetic component, so make an effort to only pass the slimmest of your genes onto your children.
  • Limit your child to one food a day that contains the word “Cheez.”
  • Help your child develop good diet and exercise habits by raising them in a different country.

Raising them in a different country may not help. Although US children are particularly hemmed in by reduced recess and gym activities in schools, more screen time, and more indoor activity in general than in previous decades, European children also see a dropoff in activity. And in some countries, notably in the Middle East, where outdoor conditions are hostile, prosperity has walked hand in hand with a dramatic reduction in activity, change in eating habits, and spike in diabetes – stark even by US standards.

But other factors represent opportunities for action. Avoid bringing packaged and processed foods into the home, for example. Packaged, processed foods often have lower nutritional value than whole foods prepared at home. Where they are used, it’s best to save them for treats or other small roles in the overall food pattern. Basic cooking skills serve anyone well, and kids love to help, so take a look at this list of age-appropriate kitchen tasks and delegate.

How you eat and move is the single greatest factor in how your kids will, so don’t ask them to do what you say (but not what you do). Try to keep those messages as consistent as possible – and discover ways to make salads and other wholesome foods more enjoyable. Yes, that may mean using less fat, salt, and sugar in cooking, but it also means using more spices and a wider variety of foods. And discovering new favorites.

Previously:
Between work and the kids, when do I go to the gym?
September Is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month
How to Use Your Baby as Exercise Equipment
10 Ways to Raise Healthier Kids
Envy for Kids’ School Lunches
Halloween Party Foods
Have Some Fun with Your Food
Burger and Fries…?
A Better Replacement

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