We know that obesity is a problem in the US — so how do we create change?
Addressing the issue of childhood obesity isn't about putting kids on diets or taking away foods that they love. It's not about doing laps around a track or getting on the scale every day either. It's about making small changes to establish healthy behaviors and create positive habits. So what does this look like?
As mentioned, this is not about putting kids on diets. This is a terrible idea. Diets have a poor success rate and are inappropriate for kids. Their bodies are growing A LOT and need food to do this. Establishing a varied, balanced, moderate is key. Eating a 1 pound cheeseburger with a double serving of fries and giant pop is fine every now and then. But more often try to have a reasonable, quarter pound sized cheeseburger with a smaller size of fries and maybe a side salad. You still get the burger and fries, just better portioned and with veggies.
Please do not demonize foods or food groups. Unless you have a food allergy, intolerance, or food preference you can safely eat most food and food groups. Oftentimes this extreme idea is an attempt to remedy a behavior. For example, grains have taken on a negative light in public eye. Not that they are bad, but for some it is the quantity that we eat can be bad. So rather than cut them out think about ways to control portions. I like to add additional sauteed vegetables to my pasta or stir fry dishes to help with grain portions.
You don't need to change your entire family's diet. This rarely works and will likely be met with resistance. Besides, the chances are that you are making good food choices that can be built upon. Let's say that your family has a meal together every night. This is great!! And the chances are that there are quality food choices offered. But is there room for improvement with little effort? Could you include whole grains? Are the protein portions excessive? Could you serve salad or a roasted vegetable side dish as an appetizer? What would you like to improve on?
Now, how about we tackle the exercise topic. Yes, it is good for us. It helps us maintain weight, balance stress, makes us feel more energetic, improves mood, etc. However, you don't need to be a marathoner or elite athlete to get benefits. Going for a walk or a hike with the family counts as exercise. A pickup game of basketball counts as exercise. As long as you or the kids are doing something enjoyable that gets their heart pumping you are doing great.
-Nick Fischer, LD, RDN