We’ve all seen the memes joking about “the COVID 19,” referring to the extra weight that so many of us have put on this year due to the pandemic. It’s been the case for many people, and not just adults.
Our children have been affected as well, making an already existing problem even worse — childhood obesity. Children who are overweight have a greater risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and asthma.
Not to mention the negative psychological effects — low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. Now more than ever, we need to take an active approach to combat this problem. But how do we do it? This year has ushered in less activity and a higher consumption of high-calorie, low-nutrient foods.
But there IS something we can do about it. A few simple behavior changes can make a world of difference.
1. Get your kids in the kitchen! Involving them in the cooking process can spark interest in foods they might be unwilling to try otherwise. Plus, some of the best childhood memories are made in the kitchen. Focus on easy and tasty vegetable recipes, such as roasted broccoli.
2. Follow the plate method. Use a plate no bigger than 9 inches, and fill half of it with vegetables, one-fourth with lean protein, and one-fourth with grains or starchy vegetables. Making your child’s plate this way provides balance and helps with portion control.
3. Limit eating out to once or twice per week. We know that fast food and many restaurant foods are packed with excessive calories, unhealthy fats, and a ton of sodium, so limiting those foods will benefit the entire family. Cooking at home instead will increase the important nutrients that your child needs for growth and development.
4. Decrease sugary beverages. Make drinking water more fun by infusing it with fruit and/or herbs. Let your child pick the combo of the day — fresh mint and lime or a citrus combo of orange and lemon. Or try the multitude of unsweetened sparkling waters out there. You can infuse those as well to boost the flavor.
5. Avoid too many restrictions. It will only backfire on you. There’s no food that’s completely off limits. It’s just a matter of balance. Aim for 80% of your week to be healthy choices. This will allow your family the freedom to enjoy their favorite foods that are less healthy every now and then.
6. Put time on the calendar for physical activity and make it fun! Play active games such as jump rope, tug of war, tag or kickball. Take a walk or ride bikes in your neighborhood or nearby park.
7. Don’t forget about sleep! Children and teenagers need much more sleep than adults. And lack of sleep is associated with higher rates of obesity.
Nourishing your body with nutrient-dense foods, getting the right amount of physical activity and getting adequate sleep can help you and your children combat unwanted weight gain that this pandemic has caused.
If you are concerned about your child’s weight, check with his or her health care provider. Ask them if a referral to the Levine Children’s Healthy Futures Clinic, a specialty treatment clinic for children who need to better manage their weight or weight-related conditions like diabetes and heart disease, could be right for your child. For more information, call 704-403-7430.