1 in 3. This is the ratio of children ages 2 to 19 in the United States who are obese. These children are at risk for serious health problems such as Type 2 Diabetes, asthma, and heart failure. They are also likely to become overweight or obese adults. As summer quickly comes to an end, here are a few things that you can do to help your child have a healthy F.A.L.L.
F – Foods
Food is the foundation of wellness. Children should begin each day with breakfast. The term itself indicates a “break” from the overnight “fast.” Just like a car cannot operate without gas, the brains of young people won’t function at optimal levels without proper nutrition. Studies show that breakfast helps to improve memory and stabilize mood. Children also tend to score higher on tests after consuming breakfast.
What else can you do? Purchase foods that are whole and minimally processed. This means that they are close to their natural form. Involve children in the grocery shopping and food preparation. Cook meals at home and eat as a family. Keep healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables, and healthy beverages available. Limit portion sizes. And, remember to be a positive role model for your child.
A – Activity
It is recommended that children participate in a minimum of 60 minutes of aerobic physical activity each day. Aerobic activity gets the heart pumping and makes the lungs work harder. It also helps a child’s mind and mood. There are many options from which to choose – from biking to basketball, running to rollerblading, and let’s not forget the classics – playing tag and jumping rope. It’s important for children to choose activities that they enjoy to increase the likelihood that they will stick with it.
Outdoor activity is equally important. Children who play outdoors regularly are fitter and leaner, have stronger immune systems, have imaginations that are positive and active, play more creatively, and have greater respect for themselves and others. Additionally, they benefit from the Vitamin D provided by the sun. 70% of children have this vitamin deficiency. Why not make it a family affair and do the activity together?
L – Limit Screen Time
Did you know that school aged children are spending 32 hours per week watching television? As a result, less time is being spent exploring, playing and interacting with parents and others. Unfortunately, the amount of television viewed increases with a child’s age. Too much television for older children may interfere with being physically active, reading, doing homework, playing with friends, and spending time with family.
Excessive television watching increases the likelihood that a child will be overweight. Children who view violent acts may demonstrate aggressive behavior, and fear that the world is scary and that something will happen to them. Television characters may display risky behaviors such as drinking and smoking. They may also reinforce gender-role and racial stereotypes. Television should be utilized for occasional entertainment and not continual escapism or as a babysitter. Adults should monitor the content of television programming and set viewing limits.
L – Listen
Today’s children are growing up in a world that greatly differs from that of their parents. In this fast paced society, stress is a problem for adults AND children. The disconnect that exists between generations can be lessened as adults engage in active listening. When adults listen, children become more interested in what they have to say. Children also trust these adults more and feel better understood. Additionally, when you rearrange the letters in the word LISTEN, you get the word SILENT. Adults need to be silent in order to really hear.
A F.A.L.L. that’s successful and healthy should be the goal for every child. This will require: F – Foods that are healthy, A – Activity that gets children moving, L – Limiting screen time, and L – Listening actively. You can have a healthier relationship with your child. Pick a letter and get started today!