Over the last few days, we've been chatting up a storm with several of our expert health and wellness providers to get their take on the obesity epidemic, and what we've found is horror, shame and general sadness regarding the overwhelming statistics.
What we haven't delved into at length is the fact that, while 42 percent of the American population could be considered clinically obese in the next 20 years, a large number will be of adolescent age.
"In order to avoid fulfilling the frightening obesity predictions laid out by the CDC in its most recent report, we must direct our attention towards expanding the health education available to parents and children," says certified personal trainer Steve Ettinger. The acclaimed children's book author behind Wallie Exercises, Steve knows just how important it is to instill the value of fitness and nutritional health early on.
"Kids and parents need to know from an early age not only the benefits of exercise and what foods contribute to obesity, but why and how to make the necessary changes," he says. Parents can start their children on a path of health and wellness by making these three simple changes in the home.
1. Eat real foods. You can't truly monitor the kinds of food your child is exposed to outside of the home, from friends' houses to the lunch room at school. That's why it's essential to keep real foods in the home. Stock your fridge with fresh vegetables and fruit; keep items in the cabinet with short ingredient lists; and model the kind of dietary behaviors you hope your children will adopt. Setting a good example in the home is an important step in ensuring the consumption of real foods outside of it.
2. Encourage natural play. No, not Nintendo Wii! Shuttle your kids out the door and encourage them to go play in the yard. Purchase cool equipment come spring so that that they want to spend more time running around in the fresh air, rather than slumped on the couch with a remote in hand. Another way to get your kids active: Sign them up for sports teams like Little League and soccer. Not only will they get the benefits of physical activity, but they'll also gain from the social aspect as well.
3. Educate children about the basics of nutrition and exercise from an early age. That doesn't mean you have to explain the intricacies of a calorie at their third birthday party. You can, however, educate your children about the ABC's of health and nutrition early on. Teach them that fruits and veggies are filled with vitamins that will help them grow; that milk will help make their bones strong and sturdy; and so on. To make it stick, make sure the information you preach is age-appropriate and not overly complicated.