Form Healthy Nutrition and Exercise Habits at Home
September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. We’ve discussed the importance of family meals to help reduce childhood obesity. In the past 30 years, childhood obesity has tripled in the United States. An estimated 40% of children born after 2000 will develop Type II diabetes in their lifetimes.
Obesity is a national epidemic in the United States, and Let’s Move is an initiative to both draw attention to the problem as well as offer solutions that are accessible for everyone. I recognize that discussing weight with your children is tricky, and it’s important to keep all conversations about body weight focused on health.
That said, avoiding it, and not addressing this issue is not the answer. Children need clear messages about health, nutrition, and exercise that come from parents – not a distorted media. And the best role model for health, nutrition, and exercise are the biggest influences in children’s lives – their parents.
Moreover, the roles schools play in childhood nutrition is fundamental. Regulations for the types of foods vending machines can sell at schools have changed to put a dent in the high-sugar, fat, and salt snacks kids were being offered since the 1970s. Implemented in the 2014-2015 school year, it’s too soon to see what long-term effects these new regulations may have. It is a positive start, though, to work toward a healthier country, and a smarter one. Feed your body, feed your mind.
Over the past thirty years, parents and schools both fell into the quick-fix trap with fast food, reducing cognitive brain function of our kids. When you are eating, you’re feeding your brain.
A UCLA professor of neurosurgery and physiological science, Dr. Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, has been studying food and its effects on the brain for years. He analyzed over 160 studies and synthesized the information, publishing alarming facts about what happens to the brain on junk food. UCLA.edu published the results of Dr. Gomez-Pinilla’s study, including how junk food reacts in the brain by reducing memory and learning. Junk food effects the brain synapses, reducing our ability to learn and memory.
Overeating also has a negative effect on brain function as our brains work better when we’re not so full. When our bodies consume too many calories, it may lower or synapses flexibility. This makes cells more vulnerable to the formation of free radicals (opening the door to oxidative damage). Free radicals are things we don’t want as an accumulation of them can lead to chronic illnesses like cancer, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases and more. These free radicals can be controlled with a great diet.
Here are 5 tips to get moving and eating healthier at home and school!
- Kids need snacks after a long day at school. Instead of grabbing the potato chips, check out some of these quick, economical, healthy snack ideas.
- School lunches can be nutritional and economical. For parents on-the-go, check out these lunchtime tips.
- Make movement a family mindset. Walk to the grocery store, carve out time to play in the park, take a bike ride together after dinner, dance in the living room. Find ways to move together. Find the joy in movement.
- Plant a garden! Whether you live in an apartment with limited space, or have an entire yard to grow a garden. Planting, caring for, and harvesting herbs, fruits, and vegetables is a beautiful tradition that, over the years, has gotten lost. Have children choose their favorite flavors. Teach them how to weed and care for the plants. Gardens take time. They are deliberate and a labor of love. What a beautiful way to teach kids to care for something and get healthier!
- Go technological! Kids are the new technology natives. So anything that beeps, shines, or adds up points is a creative way to get them moving. Think Pokemon Go! There are apps to track steps. You can set family goals. Or an app, like Steptember, is a way to raise money for charity, just by walking. Imagine every step helping someone else. What a great motivator! Setting achievable goals just might give kids the motivation they need to get in the habit of moving.
As a certified nutritionist in NYC, I work with clients on their whole-body health and the relationship they have with food, exercise, and their bodies. I believe that everyone can learn to love their bodies and form healthy habits to last a lifetime. Battling the childhood obesity epidemic begins at home. We owe health to our kids.