Today, Healthy Canadians posted the following on Facebook: Over the last 25 years, obesity rates among children and youth in Canada have nearly tripled. It’s a troubling statistic because obesity can be extremely harmful to children’s physical health. As a parent, what are you doing to encourage your child to stay fit?
Keeping healthy ourselves can be challenging enough for a mother, let alone encouraging the kids to be healthy in this world of McDonald's and DSi's! But, kids need to learn healthy food choices and need to be active... is there a better place to learn than at home?
In our house, we talk about why we make the food choices that we do - vitamins, nutrients, balanced meals, food groups. The kids like to guess what on their plate is the healthiest option.... which creates a lot of good discussions. We have also given them some guidelines (i.e.: sugar - 5 g or less per serving; fibre and protein - 5g and above per serving; choose whole grains, etc.). They are just guidelines, and rarely will a food meet all of them - but it does get the kids reading labels, and sometimes they'll choose one cereal over another based on higher fibre, lower sugar, etc.
The children also help with supper and baking from time to time and make their own lunches daily. Lunches must be healthy and include at least 2 fruit/veg, 2 grain, 2 protein. They have juice or milk as their drinks depending on the other food groups they pack that day, and have water bottles at school. Bed-time drink is water only.
They are allowed one treat a day - a cookie, 100 calorie pack, or Halloween-sized chips/candy/chocolate (they must ask for treats but can eat all the fruit and veg they want without checking first). We do allow an extra treat or two on the weekends, let them have "junk" every second week (Fast food - they make the choice based on the toys!), and we consider parties/sleepovers/dinners out to be exceptions. My thinking is that if they eat healthy 80% of the time, the other 20% is up for grabs. And, also, that they need to learn to make these choices themselves - I'm raising adults here, they will have to do this for themselves once they hit university, move out or have families of their own.
So far I think the tactic is working...they do make healthy choices, ask for treats, and are just as likely to ask Grandma for kiwi or strawberry as they are to ask for Dino-egg oatmeal. In fact, at the last sleep over with her, for supper they put in an order of roast chicken, mashed potatoes, carrots and parsnip (she was not to forget the parsnip!).
Getting the recommend activity each day is harder. We trade off screen time for activity time and reading, and outdoor play is encouraged (especially in the summer - I take after my Nan and kick the kids out & they are not to come in till lunch time! Of course, they still have to follow the rules - check in before you go anywhere, stay in our yard or the friend's yard - no going inside unless you check with Mommy first.). We will head to Bowring Park, go snowshoeing or sledding, or take a stroll through Pippy Park. Vacations are outside and we hike & swim. Mario and Toad are always in skating in the winter & swimming in the summer and are allowed one other extracurricular each - often it is physical as well, like martial arts or team sports. I will let them run in the house IF the area is clear and they aren't too wild and no one is getting hurt, same with light-saber games and Nerf toys. And sometimes we'll do yoga together - they always beat me at downward dog, but I have the better tree pose ;-).
One book we have used for food choices is Eat This Not That For Kids and Canadian Parents recommends Keeping Kids Fit for the activity side. Weight Watcher's Family Power, another Canadian Parents 12 Health Boosting Books, also seems to have some great advice pertaining to nutritious eating and activity goals.
How about you? How would you answer the Healthy Canadians question?