Did you know that September is childhood obesity month? Childhood obesity is becoming more and more of a problem in our country. But this blog post is not about childhood obesity—or at least that’s not the focus. Rather it’s about childhood overall health. The truth is it is hard to measure your child’s health based on their weight or even their BMI. Children go through different growth spurts throughout their life including height growth spurts and weight growth spurts. Just using a child’s BMI based on adult standards or “how chubby they look” can often be a very inaccurate indicator of how healthy they are. If you are concerned about your child being overweight, talk to your child’s doctor—do
not talk to your child. This will only start a downward spiral toward a bad body image for your child. You can, however, assess your child’s health based on other things:
- Is your child healthy?
- Do they prefer being sedentary to being active?
- Do they tire out unusually quickly when they are active?
- Do they have trouble falling asleep at night?
- Are they constantly getting sick?
- Are they addicted to their screens and cannot find anything to do without a screen?
- Do they show signs of depression or anxiety?
Although there are many possible causes behind some of these symptoms—causes that are worth looking into—not enough exercise or an unhealthy diet could be two of them. Whether or not your child has the above concerns, there are different habits that should be implemented in your household. If your child’s health is less than optimal, these habits will help get him or her back on track. If your child is healthy, they will help them stay healthy.
Healthy Habits for Kids
Choose fruits and vegetables for snacks over convenience foods. Keep them in an easily accessible location while keeping the convenience foods at a more inconvenient location.
Limit sweetened beverages—this includes soda and fruit juice—basically anything besides water.
Limit fast food.
Eat home cooked meals together as a family as much as possible. Once a day is a good goal.
Serve appropriate portions. Children don’t eat as much as adults and should not be expected to do so. Do not force your child to eat past being full.
Limit screen time to 2 hours or less a day. If your child is under 2, they should not have any screen time.
Encourage active play and other activity for at least 1 hour per day. Children younger than 5 should be active even longer—around 3 hours per day. In most cases, the more the better.
Emphasize activity not “exercise.” Most children love being active and will take the chance if they are given it. It will be less appealing, however, if it is treated like a chore.
If you notice from the above list that some habit changes are necessary, it might help to let your kids be part of the decision process. They will be more likely to follow if they get to do the problem solving themselves too. Make it a family goal not just one aimed at one child—you probably would benefit from it too. And always remember this is not about weight. It is about creating healthy habits for you and your child. Habits that we hope carry over into adulthood.
Sources: Mayoclinic.org, cdc.gov, choosemyplate.gov