Let the folks from Weight Watchers inspire your family to eat more healthfully and get active - good for your body, good for your spirits!
Excerpted from Weight Watchers Eat! Move! Play! A Parent's Guide for Raising Healthy, Happy Kids
Do you give up maybe a little too quickly and mumble "Whatever" when issues come up about what to eat or how much TV is okay to watch? Consider this: In children, in particular, obesity is rising at an alarming rate. Between 1960 and 2000, the childhood obesity rate more than doubled for preschoolers (children between the ages of 2 and 5) and for adolescents (ages 12 to 19) - and it more than tripled among children between the ages of 6 and 11, according to the Institute of Medicine. The good news is that this staggering rise apparently leveled off by 2006, according to a recent report from the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but it's not clear if this plateau is permanent or simply a temporary lull.
And here's a sobering reality check: "Obesity threatens the health of today's children to such an extent that they may, for the first time in U.S. history, have a shorter lifespan than their parents," according to recent recommendations for the prevention of childhood obesity in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Your child's health is not something you want to leave to chance. The fact is, a weight problem can emerge at any age or stage of childhood. That's why the sooner you take steps to introduce healthy eating and activity patterns in your family's life, the more likely you are to prevent your child from becoming overweight. The good news is that it's never too late to start, especially because kids' bodies are still growing, so their height has the opportunity to catch up with their weight if the right lifestyle changes are initiated. Plus, kids are often naturally inclined toward movement, so if you give them the opportunity, it may be easier than you think for them to get moving and stay active.
And while there is limited research pointing to what works when it comes to weight management and children, study after study has concluded that your own eating and activity behaviors, as well as your parenting practices, can have a potent and enduring effect on children's weight as they grow and develop.
How to Make Healthier Choices
No, you don't have to completely revamp or reinvent your family's lifestyle to raise healthy kids. It's really a matter of planning ahead. Here are a variety of healthy switches that are fairly easy to introduce.
Instead of: Grabbing fast food or take-out when you're rushed and don't have time to cook dinner
Try: Picking up a rotisserie chicken and cooking frozen veggies you've been keeping on hand
Instead of: Going to the movies, a puppet show, or another form of
passive entertainment every weekend
Try: Planning a family bike ride or an outing to a park where you can play tag, kick a ball, or find another way to be active
Instead of: Feeding your kids or yourself and your spouse whenever each person gets home from work and after-school activities
Try: Appointing a family dinner hour and exercising control over when you stop working or playing so that you can have the evening meal together
Instead of: Indulging the munchies when your child is frustrated, upset, or otherwise out of sorts
Try: Suggesting that you go out and toss a ball or play croquet or badminton to blow off steam
Instead of: Rewarding your child for good behavior or an accomplishment with a sweet treat or another form of food
Try: Letting him pick a special activity to do together or even a movie to watch together
Instead of: Skipping breakfast because you're in a hurry in the morning or grabbing something on the fly
Try: Having everyone get up 20 minutes earlier so you can all start the day with a healthy morning meal
Instead of: Having your kids clamor for your attention and something to eat while you scramble to pull dinner together in the early evening
Try: Reconnecting with a fun activity such as dancing or coloring together, then serve them some veggies and dip or apple slices and ask them to keep you company while you get dinner ready
Instead of: Letting bedtime arrive when it's convenient for everyone or your kids are simply too exhausted to keep going
Try: Establishing a clear bedtime and introducing a consistent sleepytime routine with a bath, reading a story, or listening to calming music together
Try to find healthy rituals and routines that you can incorporate into your family's life consistently. That's the best way to ensure that the habits, messages, positive influences, and loving feelings that you're trying to give your children will take root and thrive.
How should I handle it when other people - such as family members, friends, or neighbors-undermine or sabotage the healthy eating habits I'm trying to instill?
It's important to talk with other people who take care of your children - including daycare workers, nannies, babysitters, and perhaps other family members - about how you would like your children to eat. Make your wishes known, then trust that they'll follow them - or consider switching sitters, for example, if yours doesn't comply with your requests and routinely lets your kids overdose on junk food to the point where they feel sick. But try to remain somewhat flexible: Having a certain type of cookies at a friend's house after school or letting Grandma spoil your kids with extra fun food once in a while won't do any lasting harm to your children. And if you consistently serve your kids healthy foods at home, you'll be counteracting these occasional influences in a positive way. Remember that your goal is to instill healthy eating habits in your kids while also teaching them how to handle treats and occasional splurges in the real world - in moderation.
Weight Watchers Eat! Move! Play! contains more than 75 nutritious recipes your kids will actually eat; it is available at www.amazon.com.