From fast food to high calorie energy drinks and lack of exercise, kids across the country – and many right here in southeast Michigan – are gaining weight and following unhealthy lifestyles.
While Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign gained great popularity and many schools have regulated what they offer at lunch, kids continue to consume fattening food and drink and gain weight. This cycle of poor nutrition and lack of exercise affects children’s overall health and well-being.
And while you cannot monitor your child all of the time, it is important to help him make good food decisions and stay on a healthy track.
But if your child is overweight or obese, it’s not too late to change his habits. Dr. Suzanne Peplinski, a pediatrician at Southfield Pediatrics in West Bloomfield, offers five tips for getting your child on track to leading a healthier life.
1. Eat all five
It seems simple enough, but many parents don’t incorporate the five basic food groups in their child’s daily nutrition.
Dr. Peplinski says that whole grains are healthy choices for the grain food group, including whole grain pasta and bread.
“Vitamin D is very important,” she says.
So skim milk and low-fat yogurt are a great source of nutrition – especially for Michiganders who lack Vitamin D.
Don’t forget your fresh veggies and fruits, along with meat and protein.
Lean beef, skinless poultry, fish and beans are a great source of protein for kids.
And remember – broiled, not fried. How you prepare food is just as important as what you’re feeding your kids!
2. Portion control
“I think we need to realize that portion sizes for kids are a lot smaller,” Dr. Peplinski says.
Portion sizes for kids are about half that of an adult. If you can fit the portion of food in the palm of your hand, you typically have the right amount for a child.
Don’t overfeed your children. The bigger the portion, the higher the caloric intake, leading to weight gain and health issues.
3. Don’t drink your calories
From Vitamin Water to energy drinks, pop and fruit juice, kids are drinking more and more sugar.
“Sugar drinks are one of the biggest culprits for child obesity,” Dr. Peplinski says.
Instead of giving your child these drinks, she suggests skim milk and water. You can still incorporate juice in moderation. For kids ages 1 to 6, limit their intake to 4 ounces. per day; for kids 7 and older, do not consume more than 8 ounces per day.
But remember, 100 percent juice or not, Dr. Peplinski says, “It’s just pure sugar.”
4. Get moving
Monitoring food intake is only part of the battle.
Many kids are not getting adequate daily exercise, and this combination of unhealthy food and no movement is a dangerous duo.
Parents must stress exercise and activity – and Dr. Peplinski suggests children exercise for an hour per day, five days a week.
This could include playing Wii Sports for the Nintendo Wii on colder days – or spending some time playing sports or simply walking outside.
No matter what your child decides to do, it’s important to get active and stay active – for life!
5. Take it slow
“I think any change of a routine is going to be difficult for a kid. Any drastic change can lead to a child’s resistance,” Dr. Peplinski says.
That’s why gradual changes will lead to more positive results when it comes to helping your child lose weight and keep it off.
Whether it takes one month or one year, the overall goal is to get healthy, lose weight and keep it off.
Be patient with your children and understand the difficulty in getting on track.