Healthy kids are happy kids
Encouraging Healthy Habits In Children
Children today experience a different lifestyle than they did several years ago. Childhood obesity rates have tripled in the past 3 decades and today in America 1 in 3 children are overweight or obese. 30 years ago children were able to maintain a healthy weight and healthier lifestyle because more children walked to school, ran around at recess, had regular gym classes, played outside after school, and had more home cooked meals, less processed foods, and less snacks. Today walks to school are replaced with bus and car rides, more and more physical education and after school programs are being cut, children are spending more time in front of a television or playing video games, and less time outdoors, and parents and families are busier than ever making more meals either eaten out or premade from a package.
Healthy habits help children have stronger bones and muscles, they will be less likely to become overweight, will be less likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes, and will have a better outlook on life. Children should receive between 30 to 60 minutes of structured physical activity per day. As caregivers it’s our job to offer a wide range of physical activity for the children to engage in.
Throughout my nanny career depending on the ages of the children I’ve played games like tag, red light green light, freeze tag, have a movement parade, and have dance parties. Other ways to incorporate physical activity could be:play games that incorporate music, imitation, and simple directions where children can be the leaders, play games that incorporate strength, coordination, and confidence, provide safe objects to throw, kick and catch, and encourage children to adapt or invent their own games.
In addition to physical activity, nutrition is a huge part of having healthy habits. Portion sizes have also exploded- they are now two to five times bigger than they were in years past. Beverage portions have grown as well- in the mid-1970s, the average sugar-sweetened beverage was 13.6 ounces compared to today, kids think nothing of drinking 20 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverages at a time. In total, we are now eating 31 percent more calories than we were forty years ago–including 56 percent more fats and oils and 14 percent more sugars and sweeteners. The average American now eats fifteen more pounds of sugar a year than in 1970.
Some examples of appropriate portion sizes:
1 slice of bread
½ cup rice or pasta (cooked)
1 small piece of fruit (super-large apples are 2+ servings)
1 wedge of melon
¾ cup fruit juice
1 cup milk or yogurt
2 oz. cheese (about the size of a domino)
2-3 oz. meat, poultry or fish (this is about the size of a deck of cards)
Many of us don’t know or realize what appropriate portion sizes are. When eating at home you can offer the proper serving size to each member of the family, and then put any leftovers away. When dining out you can skip the appetizers and split a large salad or entrée with a friend. When ordering take out you could eat one slice of pizza instead of two, or order a small instead of a medium to split amongst the family so pieces are smaller. At snack time you can eat appropriate portion sizes by never eating directly out of the bag or box and measuring snacks before serving them for yourself or children.
It’s our responsibility more than ever to encourage healthy eating, give opportunities for physical activity, and lead by example so our children can have a long and healthy life.