Upon signing landmark legislation to overhaul national child nutrition standards, President Obama cited some troubling figures: one in three children in America are overweight or obese. That’s why, he says, we need to encourage better eating habits in America’s children—starting with what kids consume on school grounds.
The Child Nutrition Bill will not only increase access to school lunches by qualifying 100,000 children on Medicaid for free lunches, but it will make those lunches more nutritious. We’re talking more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products on lunch trays, and less sugary snack foods in campus vending machines.
You can join the effort to combat the child obesity crisis, and ensure the health of your own children, by following these expert tips and resources.
- Get your school involved in the campaign to prevent obesity. Children spend a lot of time in school, and if they're eating school lunches or buying items from the vending machines, they could be engaging in some unhealthy eating habits. Encourage your school to adopt wellness programs to educate children about healthy options, and practice what they preach by putting fruits and veggies on lunch trays. Learn more about how your school can get involved here.
- Ask your pediatrician to test your child’s Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is a measure of body weight in proportion to height that provides an indicator of approximate total body fat. It provides a good diagnostic tool to help determine your child’s health. Some schools are already measuring BMI in their students. Click here to find out more.
- Pack a lunch that’s healthy. Show your kids that healthy can be delicious with these nutritious lunchbox ideas.
- Be a good role model. Not only do children need to healthy foods and exercise, they need the positive reinforcement that comes from good role modeling. Learn about ways that you can make improvements to your own diet and exercise routines in order to create a healthy environment for your child. Get tips here.
- Exercise as a family. Exercising together is fun, and encourages a lifetime of physical activity in your child. So take walks, go swimming, dance around the living room, and play tag in the backyard! Click here for more ideas.
- Educate your child by explaining the reasons for weight gain and weight loss. The same amount of calories in/the same amount of calories out (or “burned” through exercise.) More calories in = weight gain. More calories out = weight loss. Learn more your child’s specific calorie requirements here.
- Be aware of hidden sources of calories. Did you know that a 12-ounce glass of orange juice contains the same amount of calories as three chocolate chip cookies? For more tips on hidden calories click here.
- Don’t forget the fiber! Fiber has been proven to slow the rate that sugar is absorbed into the blood stream, and helps to signal your brain that you're full. For some tips on adding fiber to your family’s diet, click here.
- Limit television consumption. Not only does time on the couch mean less time for physical activity, but more media exposure means more advertisements for fat- and sugar-laden foods. Because of studies showing an association between television watching and obesity, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids under 2 years old not watch any TV and that those older than 2 watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day.
- Encourage your child to get a good night’s sleep. Studies have shown that a lack of sleep is tied to obesity in preteens. A healthy appetite and diet regime is part of a general wellness lifestyle. Find out more about good sleep habits here.