We are one of the most unhealthy countries in the world. Since the 1980’s we’ve started to see children become obese, one of the deadliest health risks recently defined as a “disease” by the American Medical Association (AMA). A new scientific statement from the American Heart Association (AHA) claims about “5% of American kids and teens are severely obese,” with 2.2% of preschoolers already in that category. (Source)
Here are some more alarming facts on childhood obesity:
- Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
- 1 out of 3 kids are overweight or obese. (source)
- According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 12.5 million kids age 2-19 years are now obese in just the U.S.
- Obese kids are more likely to also be obese as adults, which puts them at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems.
- A 2013 study found obesity puts kids at risk for health issues such as ADHD, allergies and ear infections, in addition to high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, other cardiovascular issues and more.
- Less than half of preschoolers consume two daily servings of fruit.
- One-third of high school students get the recommended amount of exercise.
- Due to increasing obesity rates, this generation of children may be the first in 200 years with a shorter life expectancy than their parents. (Source)
Many factors contribute to obesity, but the obvious of all of them is food. Why does taste always seems to take priority, while nutrition is what we should be focusing on the most?
We need to think of our food as medicine for our body. It has the power to prevent and cure disease! Dr. Mark Hyman, MD explains, “nutrition is a therapeutic tool that most practitioners never learned in medical school.” But food also has the power to make us very ill if we’re eating the wrong things. The food we eat sends information to our genes and largely affects what happens in our bodies. And most of the time the answers to our health issues lie in the stuff we’re putting on our fork.
Below is a list of 11 ways we can eliminate obesity. It’s a list for everyone, big, small, healthy or sick.
If you incorporate these 11 ways into your lifestyle, you’ll not only help save your child’s life, you’ll be saving your own life too.
1. Learn Proper Nutrition
Let’s get this straight right away… Food is not nutrition. Unfortunately our supermarkets are filled with things that you can eat, but I wouldn’t call it real food. There’s a difference between food that has life and dead food. Dead food has absolutely no nutrition and most of the time is loaded with ingredients that can harm our bodies. Here are a few examples:
Real Food & Nutrition is:
- Clean water – free of fluoride (it may be in your tap water)
- Unlimited leafy greens and vegetables – at least 7 servings per day (corn does not count as a vegetable!)
- Three to four servings of fruit per day
- Balance protein at every meal including, organic poultry, beans, nuts, seeds, fish, & organic eggs
- Healthy fats like coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil & avocados
- Limited grains including rice & potatoes
- Lots of herbs and spices
- Limited grass-fed beef, raw milk, cheese & juice (1-2 servings per week)
TIP: Smoothies are a great way to make sure your kids are getting the proper nutrients! Kids love them. I like to cut a banana in slices and freeze them. You could try it with strawberries as well. Simply mix your frozen bananas with all sorts of good stuff like mangoes, blueberries, kale, spinach, strawberries, pineapple and all of your other favorites! You don’t even need yogurt or ice. Simple, nutritious and delicious.
- To give it even more nutrients and to boost your children’s immune systems, add Dynamic Kids Drink Powder. It’s an excellent source of natural vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and probiotics. Or try Dr. Fuhrman’s Pixie Vites which is also packed with nutrition.
Proper nutrition is not:
- Frozen dinners like pizza, corn dogs, chicken nuggets, Twinkies, processed boxed and canned food, etc.
- Fast food, processed food like hot dogs or Kraft singles, junk foods like chips, cookies, candy, etc.
- Hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, nitrates, mechanically seperated meat (hot dogs)
- Soda and other sugary soft drinks, sports drinks or Kool-Aid
- Fast Food or many other restaurant foods
Use this Natural Health & Nutrition Pyramid as a guide.
2. Teach Kids About Food & What Healthy Means
Many youngsters can’t even tell you what a papaya is or what an onion looks like. If our kids learn and know about healthy foods, like fruit and vegetables, they will be more willing to eat them. Just because we don’t like a certain flavor, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t let our children try it. Green bean hater? Maybe your toddler would love them!
After you learn proper nutrition, start to step out of your comfort zone a little with new foods you never thought you’d lay a taste bud on. Then start teaching your children about the health benefits of the different foods and what they do for our bodies. If we get them on the right track early on, and teach them what foods are healthy and what foods are not, they will be better off in the future.
- Take a look at this Fruit For Health Infographic.
- Check out these 10 Health Benefits of Broccoli Infographic.
2. Be Aware of Food Allergies/Sensitivities
Sometimes our bodies can become inflammed because we have food allergies or sensitivities. Inflammation eventually leads to health issues. There are many symptoms that your child may be dealing with that could be caused by sensitivities to certain foods. Some of these include:
- Weight Problems
- Migraines & headaches
- Diarrhea & constipation
- Gas, bloating, nausea, heartburn, reflux
- Hair loss
- Autoimmune diseases (ADD/ADHD, Diabetes, Austim, etc.)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Colitis, Chrones Disease
- Chronic pain
- Chronic skin rashes, eczema, psoriasis
- Chronic allergies
- Heart disease
- Depression, irritability, PMS, sleep problems
Some of the common allergy culprits are wheat/gluten, soy, nuts, dairy, among others. If you or your child struggle with losing weight, it may be smart to try an elimination diet to figure out how your body reacts to certain foods. You wouldn’t think it, but even citrus could be the problem. An elimination diet has major benefits. It helps to repair the health of your gut while getting rid of unwanted pounds.
3. Set a Good Example
According to a survey by the America On The Move Foundation, 71% of children learn how to be healthy from their mothers and 43% learn from their fathers.
Our kids will follow in our footsteps, so it’s very important to give them a good idea of what a healthy lifestyle means and looks like.
The best thing we can do is make the changes for ourselves first. When we do that, we’ll be helping our children succeed at the same time we do. There couldn’t be a better win win situation than that!
There are money hungry people lurking behind the scenes of big food companies that don’t really give two you know whats about your health.
Be very weary of labels that read “natural”, “fat-free”, “low-fat”, “sugar-free”… These things are substituted with worse things and usually loaded with sugar (which turns to fat). Plus, the big writing on the front of packages are just marketing strategies. Start looking at the back.
The list of ingredients will tell you what you need to know. The shorter the list – the better. There are food additives, dyes, hydrogenated oils, preservatives, corn syrup, modified food starch and many other toxic chemicals in our food these days. These are all ingredients that should make us put it right back on the shelf.
Try sticking to the outside isles of the food market, go to your local farmers market, or even find a few local farmers that sell meat and produce. Whatever you do, read the ingredients on everything! Know what you’re putting in your body and your children’s bodies.
5. Watch Portion Size
The American portion sizes in restaurants are obscene! They could literally feed an entire family.
Consider the actual size of your stomach… if you make a fist, that’s about what size it is.
Now have your child make a fist and estimate the size of his or her stomach. If we’re putting more food in our tummies than needs to be there – we know our portion is too big.
Try cutting portions in half. For example, if you usually serve two eggs for breakfast try going down to one.
The fun thing about veggies is, you don’t have to care about portion size because you can eat as many as you want!
Encourage your little ones to serve themselves. They will enjoy being involved and it will help them learn about healthy portion sizes and control. Teach them to take bigger servings of veggies and a healthy serving of the rest. Also, the days of making your children eat everything on their plate are over! If our kids are full, they’re full.
Eat less tips:
- Use smaller plates and utensils
- Drink a glass of water before the meal
- Have healthy snacks throughout the day
- Eat slowly, take smaller bites, chew completely and sip your water
6. Ditch the Soft Drinks
A 2010 study put out by the National Cancer Institute warns that soda is the number one source of calories for teenagers between ages 14 and 18.
There is nothing healthy about soda pop. In fact, most everything in these types of sugary soft drinks are very bad for your health. Ingredients like brominated vegetable oil (BVO) in Mountain Dew was first used by chemical companies as a flame retardant. Other ingredients like sodium benzoate, dyes, high fructose corn syrup and aspartame all contribute to inflammation, weight gain, sickness and disease.
Dr Mercola tells us, “Just one can of soda per day can add as much as 15 pounds to your weight over the course of a single year, not to mention increase your risk of diabetes by 85 percent.”
- Read Mercola’s article on Why You Should Ditch Soft Drinks Completely.
I have family members who let their kids drink as much as eight cans of soda in one day. GROSS ME OUT. But guess what else? Both of those kids I speak of are obese and very unhealthy.
Drink water. It’s good!
7. Eat Together – at the Table – at Home
- Restaurant revenues in the United States grew from $43 billion in 1970 to $558 billion today (Source)
One of my favorite physicians, Dr. Mark Hyman, hits the nail on the head in his article How Eating at Home Can Save Your Life. He says,
“The slow insidious displacement of home cooked and communally shared family meals by the industrial food system has fattened our nation and weakened our family ties. In 1900, 2 percent of meals were eaten outside the home. In 2010, 50 percent were eaten away from home and one in five breakfasts is from McDonald’s. Most family meals happen about three times a week, last less than 20 minutes and are spent watching television or texting while each family member eats a different microwaved “food.” More meals are eaten in the minivan than the kitchen. Research shows that children who have regular meals with their parents do better in every way, from better grades, to healthier relationships, to staying out of trouble.”
Sarah Anderson and Robert Whitaker, professor of public health and pediatrics at Temple University, conducted a study that proves having family dinners, getting enough sleep and limiting weekday TV time will reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity by 40%. The study offers three simple rules to add to your family routine:
- Eat an evening meal as a family more than five times a week.
- Get at least 10.5 hours of sleep per night.
- Watch less than two hours of TV per day on weekdays.
Some simple bonding time at the table each night can truly impact the health of your entire family. Laurie David, producer of An Inconvenient Truth, wants to help America’s overwhelmed families bring back the Family Dinner in their home. Laurie’s book, The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect With Your Kids One Meal at a Time, has more than 75 recipes by Kirstin Uhrenholdt, advice, tips on teaching green values, conversation starters, games and much more. Some of the tips she has for the family dinner are:
- Make a set dinnertime
- No phones, TV or texting during dinner
- Everyone eats the same meal
- Drink only water
- Invite friends and family
- Everyone cleans up together
This is a simple and fun way to promote a healthy and connected lifestyle full of win-win situations for everyone. Give it a try!
8. Pack A Lunch For School
I’m going to be blunt…school lunches stink. Sorry, but Sloppy Joes, chicken nuggets and pizza are not healthy options. Even after most schools are trying to upgrade their lunch programs, I have to say school lunches are still nutritionally dead. Plus, these types of lunches leave parents with no control over our children’s health. I would not want Big Food making these decisions for me or my kids. There are so many benefits to packing a lunch for your kids including helping them to maintain a healthy weight.
Here are a few others:
- You have control over what your child eats
- You know what’s in the food and who made it
- You can decide the portion size
- You can make sure to provide the right nutrients for fuel
- You get to put a little love note inside! Only until the day your kid rolls his eyes in embarrassment, of course
Get your children involved in the packing. Make a list together of favorite foods they’d like to see in their lunch boxes. You can even go shopping for a lunch box together!
- Here’s some ideas: Nutrition Packed lunch links
9. Get Outside
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids over the age of two get at least an hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. Babies and toddlers should be active for 15 minutes every hour of each day. (Source)
Fresh air is good for everyone. When you’re outside, you can take a walk on a nature trail and explore some wildlife, go swimming in good weather, take bike rides, have races, pick weeds or harvest in the garden. What happened to kids that used to live and breathe for their outside time? In summer we’d always be bare foot playing tag, capture the flag, kick the can, and other outdoor games. The bitter cold in winter didn’t keep us from getting out. We’d build snowmen, go sledding, snowball fights and even play at the park. Isn’t it obvious that these activities will keep our kids healthy and help prevent obesity?
Here’s plenty of good reasons to get our kiddos outside:
- Fresh air promotes good sleep
- The air outside is way less toxic than the air inside the house
- It’s a great place to learn and explore nature
- Promotes significant improvements in ADHD symptoms, learning ability, creativity and mental, psychological and emotional well being and self-esteem (source)
- Reduced aggression and increased happiness
Today only 21% of kids get regular play time outside compared to 71% of their parents when they were young. It’s time to fix this problem and watch how childhood obesity rates begin to drop.
10. Get Enough Sleep
Kids need a proper amount of sleep just as adults do. Kids are recommended to get at least 10-12 hours per night depending on their age. During sleep, our bodies repair and restore themselves. In fact, people can actually gain weight if they don’t get enough sleep at night.
Lack of sleep can have a negative impact on our hormones that control our appetite. It also impacts stress levels which affect inflammation that leads to weight gain and other health issues. It’s a vicious cycle.
My son, Max, loves getting foot rubs before bed to help him get sleepy. Simply cuddling up with your kids before bed and reading a few books can slow things down and help them ease into a good night sleep.
If we eat well, good sleep should not be too hard to accomplish.
11. Be on Strike Against the Fast Food Influence
- Food and beverage advertisers are spending between $10 and $15 billion annually marketing to children.
- The fast food industry spends more than $5 million every day marketing unhealthy foods to children. (Source)
- About 98% of all televised food ads seen by children are for foods high in sugar, fat, or sodium.
- Junk food continues to be marketed in schools through vending machines, team sponsorships, incentive programs, fundraising, direct advertising, and sponsored educational materials.
- In-school junk food advertising masquerades as education. Ronald McDonald visits schools to promote literacy, character education, and fitness. McDonald’s, Coke and Pepsi all have in-school fitness programs.
- Food and beverage companies are positioning themselves as partners in the fight against childhood obesity, yet corporations such as Coca Cola and Pepsico have consistently lobbied against state and local legislation to curb the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages in schools. (Source)
According to the American Psychological Association, “Research has found strong associations between increases in advertising for non-nutritious foods and rates of childhood obesity. Most children under age 6 cannot distinguish between programming and advertising and children under age 8 do not understand the persuasive intent of advertising. Advertising directed at children this young is by its very nature exploitative.”
Let’s not let our children learn from these money hungry advertisers! Let’s be on strike against the marketing of unhealthy, dead food to our children. We can’t be lazy when it comes to food. We can’t let our kids eat McDonald’s and other fast food as much as they are!
The last time I was in McDonald’s, my 3 year old son pointed out a morbidly obese woman to me. He gasped a little when he saw her and said loudly, “Mom, she’s fat! I don’t want to be like that.” I said, then let’s not come to McDonald’s ever again.
I told him what he was eating had nothing good in it whatsoever and that people who eat it a lot will get to be like that woman. The same goes for many restaurants and foods that most of us are eating daily.
What are your thoughts on child obesity? What tips or tricks do you have for making sure your children are getting the right nutrition? Leave a comment below, we’d love to hear it!
Plus, watch this great video featuring Jamie Oliver talking about teaching kids about food.
Learn more about how being overweight or obese can increase your risk of developing metabolic syndrome
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