Keeping Kids Healthy and Fit
Posted on September 14, 2012 by Dr. Robert Blair
With the rare exception, going back to school is not something which our kids eagerly anticipate. #AHealthierU I know mine is already grumbling about the idea of having to do homework again! For most, going back to school is a simple inconvenience, but for kids with weight problems it can be a scary proposition. While bullying in our schools is prohibited, that doesn’t truly stop it from happening. Additionally, physical education classes can be more challenging for overweight kids, both physically and emotionally. Helping our children maintain or obtain a healthy body weight or obtain a healthy body weight is important for both their health and social experiences.
The Weight-Control Information Network has an excellent publication, Helping Your Overweight Child, which discusses things parents can do to promote a healthy body weight in our children.
Encourage Healthy Eating Habits. Today’s society is typically not conducive to healthy eating. While school systems are now under a mandate to provide healthier menus, the availability of unhealthy food choices and sugary drinks persists. Food advertisements on television generally promote less-than-healthy options, fast food items are still too high in fat, and portion sizes are still too large. This food environment to which kids are exposed can easily lead to consumption of excess calories and excess weight gain. To combat this, it is important to help our children make healthier food choices. Some ideas you can adopt include:
• Start each day with a healthy breakfast.
• Serve more fruits and vegetables, both at meals and for snacks.
• Drink water and low-fat milk rather than sugary beverages.
• Limit dietary fat intake by serving leaner meats and low-fat dairy products.
Promote Physical Activity Every Day. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, children should get at least 60 minutes of activity every day. Despite this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that only 18% of children met this recommendation in 2007 and only 33% of children attended school physical education classes in 2009. In contrast, the CDC reports that on average children spend 7.5 hours each day in front of televisions, computers, movies and video games. It is clear that many children are not getting the exercise they need. Some ideas for promoting physical activity include:
• Plan family activities –walks, bike rides, or recreational sports.
• Encourage your child to join a team sport.
• Set limits on time spent watching TV, playing video games, and other sedentary habits.
• Assign chores that require physical activity.
Being overweight or obese has been linked to several chronic health conditions in children, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, and bone and joint problems. A healthy body weight is important to reducing children’s risk for these health issues.
In addition to reaching a healthy body weight, dietary supplements can help ensure that our children get all the nutrients they need while developing healthier eating habits. Some important supplements to consider include a good multivitamin, omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics.
Multivitamin/Multimineral. A good multivitamin/multimineral is the easiest way to ensure our children meet their minimum daily needs of the essential micronutrients. Many overweight children consume foods high in calories, but low in nutrients. A good multivitamin/multimineral can help them overcome any nutrient deficiencies they have developed due to their current eating habits.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, have been reported to have many health benefits for children. In addition to supporting heart health, omega-3 fatty acids have been reported to support memory health, a definite benefit for kids going back to school. In addition to these benefits, studies have suggested that omega-3 fatty acids might support healthy weight loss in both children and adults.
Probiotics… Probiotics are beneficial bacteria, like one would find in yogurt. Research has suggested that not only does being overweight alter the bacteria naturally found in our digestive tract, but that manipulation of these gut bacteria with probiotics might support healthy weight loss.
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- Health Tip: Talk to Kids About Smoking (nlm.nih.gov)