It is a frightening time when we see reports of children taking the same blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes medications as their parents or grandparents. Our fast-paced lifestyle, including poor eating habits and little exercise, has affected our health and now it is trampling our children’s health, too.
Since the 1970s, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the United States. More than a third of children under 19 are now classified as overweight or obese. Fast food or a nutrient-deprived microwave meal, combined with sugary pop or energy drinks, equal an epidemic of childhood obesity in our country.
Almost all childhood obesity can be prevented and treated with lifestyle changes. A very tiny percentage of children are obese due to hormonal imbalances or other medical conditions. But for the vast majority, poor eating habits and lack of activity are things that you have the power to change for the better, even if your family is genetically predisposed to being overweight.
It is not too late to start on the road to a healthy lifestyle. Hurley Children’s Hospital has created resources and tools to help families dive into healthier eating and lifestyle habits.
A great place to begin is by taking advantage of your local resources! Hurley offers a free program for you and your child to meet with a Registered Dietitian. Funded by a Kohl’s Healthy Kids grant, there is no charge for the consultations and insurance will not be billed. The consultations are for children ages 2-17 and their families. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call 810.262.2301.
Another partnership between Hurley Children’s Hospital and Kohl’s Healthy Kids is a website specific for pediatric nutrition and fitness: www.kohlshurleykids.com. There, you will find recipes, upcoming local programs, events, and fitness tips.
Emily Gideon, Registered Dietitian at Hurley Medical Center Diabetes Center, shared these tips to help your family jumpstart into a healthy lifestyle:
1. Eat Fruits and Veggies
Set aside an area in your refrigerator that is stocked with healthy snacks. Include things like string cheese, crackers, fruit, yogurt, celery and peanut butter. The variety allows your child to pick what they like, but you can be assured your child is choosing something healthy for an after-school snack.
2. Avoid Sweetened Drinks
Ditch the pop, sports drinks, fruit juice and chocolate milk. These drinks do not offer much nutrition, but they are loaded with extra calories. Water, sparkling water or milk are the best alternatives.
3. Go Outside and Have Fun
Incorporate activity into your and your family’s lifestyles. Go outside together as a family. Walk the dog, take a bike ride, have a snowball fight, toss a Frisbee or shoot baskets.