Raising Healthy Kids


In my last article I spoke about growing and obvious problems associated with obesity and children.  We are seeing adult type diseases showing up soon and sooner because of unhealthy lifestyle choices.  Despite our knowledge and access to information heart disease is still the number one killer of American and cancer is number two.

In this article I want to outline some healthy habits to begin in order to not only combat theses diseases but to actually build up healthy bodies and healthy habits that last a lifetime.



Lead by Example


Heavy kids usually have heavy parent. Studies have shown that a child’s risk of obesity greatly increases if one or more parent is overweight or obese families tend to have similar eating patterns, maintain the same levels of physical activity, and adopt the same attitudes toward being overweight.



Current guidelines recommend that kids over 2 years of age get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity everyday. That may seem like a lot but remember when you were a kid and you played outside until the street lights came on and your mom was yelling that dinner was ready, come inside! That hour includes playing tag, hide and go seek, climbing trees and wiffle ball in the front yard. All stuff my 3 kids are adept at.


Diet /Meal preparation:


With soccer, cheerleading and tae kwon do who has time to sit down and prepare a meal?  Preparation is the key word. Take a survey from the family about some of their favorite healthy meals and lay out the weekly menu.  Have a set time for all family members to sit down together. Homework done, TV off, hands washed and sitting down at 6 o’clock. I know this is easier said than done but if you don’t have a guide and a goal how will you ever make a change?



And avoid falling into these common foods/eating behavior traps:


Don’t reward kids for good behavior or try to stop bad behavior with sweets or treats. Come up with other solutions to modify their behavior, like positive reinforcement or special time with Mom or Dad as a reward.


Don’t maintain a clean-plate policy. Be aware of kids’ hunger cues. And realize that filling a child plate with an adult portion is an easy mistake to make.   Even babies who turn away from the bottle or breast send signals that they’re full. If kids are satisfied, don’t force them to continue eating. Reinforce the idea that they should only eat when they’re hungry.


Don’t talk about “bad foods” or completely eliminate all sweets and favorite snacks from kids’ diets. Kids may rebel and over eat these forbidden foods outside the home or sneak them in on their own. Dr. Sears talks about red, green and yellow light foods.  Green equal fruits and veggies eat as many as you like. Yellow are sometimes food these are things you may have from time to time such as ice cream, frozen yogurt and smoothies. Red lights are things that should be avoided such as doughnuts, soda and sugary cereals.



Media Exposure:


Media exposure is definitely a contributing factor to childhood obesity.  Kids are spending more time playing with electronic devices, from computers to handheld video game systems, than actively playing outside. Television is a major culprit. Kids younger than 6 spend an average of 2 hours a day in front of a screen, mostly watching TV, DVDs, or videos. Older kids and teens spend almost 4 hours a day watching TV, DVDs, or videos.  When computer use and video games are included, time spent in front of a screen increases to over 5½ hours a day for teens! In other words, for many kids, once they get home from school, virtually all of their free time is spent in front of one screen or another.


TheAmericanAcademyof Pediatrics (AAP) currently recommends limiting the time kids over 2 years of age spend in front of a screen to no more than 1-2 hours. The AAP also states that kids3 and under watch NO TV at all!



Recommendations by Age:

Additional recommendations for kids of all ages:


Birth to age 1: In addition to its many health benefits, breastfeeding may help prevent excessive weight gain. Breastfed babies may be more able to control their own intake and follow their own internal hunger cues. Begin to establish good bedtime patterns.


Ages 2 to 6:   Start good habits early. Help shape food preferences by offering a variety of healthy foods. Encourage kids’ natural tendency to be active and help them build on developing skills. When you feed them noodles and butter for each meal for example, that is all they want.  When you plop them down to watch “Baby Einstein” videos they get accustomed to the TV screen.  Continue to foster good bedtime rituals including reading to your kids.


Ages 7 to 12: Encourage kids to be physically active every day, whether through an organized sports team or a pick-up game of soccer during recess. Keep your kids active at home, too, through everyday activities like walking and playing in the yard, remember that hour per day. Let them be more involved in making good food choices, such as packing lunch and buying food at the grocery store. Kids this age still need 10-12 hours of sleep per night.


Ages 13 to 17: Teens like fast food, but try to steer them toward healthier choices like grilled chicken sandwiches, salads, and smaller sizes. Teach them how to prepare healthy meals and snacks at home. Encourage teens to be active every day.


Most of all let your kids know you love them — no matter what their weight — and that you want to help them be happy and healthy.


Those seeking additional information regarding this study may contact Steven Long, DC directly 4359 Town Center Blvd. Suite 213, EDH and telephone (916) 933-4507.




Resources: Info adapted from…

Mary L. Gavin, MD