The key to raising healthy kids is teaching them how to make healthy decisions. To do this, you must be informed about health issues that affect your child and be willing to take an active role as a parent. Childhood obesity is the biggest health threat facing kids. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16.3 percent of youth in the United States are obese. This causes alarm among health professionals concerned about correlations between obesity and increased risk of other diseases and conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, liver/gallbladder disease, sleep apnea/respiratory problems, osteoarthritis and reproductive problems. By following these steps, you can take action to stimulate healthy decision-making and prevent obesity.
Begin with a healthy pregnancy. Make sure you consume the recommended amounts vitamins and nutrients. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that pregnant women require higher daily amounts of vitamin A (770 mcg), calcium (1,000 mg), iron (27 mg), vitamin C (85 mg), vitamin B12 (2.6 mcg), folate (600 mcg) and folic acid (400 mcg). Some prenatal vitamins now provide DHA Omega-3 to support brain and eye development.
Take an active role in your child’s health care. Discuss concerns about important issues, such as circumcision, medications and vaccinations with the pediatrician. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Provide a supportive environment. Children excel when they feel safe and comfortable. By creating a welcoming, open atmosphere at home, your child will be less likely to seek gratification in other ways, such as overeating, drugs, alcohol, promiscuous behavior or some other unhealthy alternative.
Model healthy eating habits. From the time they are babies, kids try to mimic the people most significant to them. If you eat a healthy diet, chances are they will too. Cook at home. Introduce a variety of foods. Emphasize the health benefits. For example, say something like, “This milk tastes refreshing. And it’s helping me build strong bones.”
Work physical activity into family time. A study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Stanford University, found that kids (age 8 to 18 years) spend approximately 6.5 hours per day using media (television, computer, iPod and video games). The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends parents reduce this number to no more than 1 to 2 hours per day. Instead of centering family time on media, center it around an activity. Play putt-putt, spend the day at a park or engage in a game of tag in the yard. Focus on fun rather than competition, especially when interacting with younger children.
Teach good hygiene. Don’t overlook the simple things: bathing, brushing teeth, combing hair and washing hands. Explain that it is necessary to do these tasks so you will look and smell good and avoid spreading germs.