Sarah Jessica Parker's new movie "I Don't Know How She Does It" isn't far-fetched. As a Springfield mother, I know how difficult it can be to keep everything in balance, especially in early fall (read: "back to school chaos"). Each fall brings countless activities from soccer practice to girl/boy scouts, and parents find themselves running from one thing to the next
Parents should take this time as an opportunity to lead by example. When you look at the numbers, the importance of this month is clear. According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, the prevalence of obesity among U.S. children ages six to 19 has tripled in the past 20 years to slightly more than 15 percent. In Illinois alone, childhood obesity rates are climbing to 20 percent. Truth is, obese children have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, all of which used to be very rare in this population.
Now is the time for parents to refocus and reverse these trends. We have a responsibility to lead by example and provide children with the tools to have a future without health problems. So turn over a new leaf for your family this month by following these three simple steps.
Stick together. Involve your children in the food selection process! Parents have an enormous influence over their children's lives by modeling good decision-making. Take your kids grocery shopping to show them how to pick out healthy options. When you go to the store, make it fun for the kids by having them find a new fruit or vegetable or asking them to pick out produce in their favorite color. Most grocery stores offer recipe cards with great tips for using produce in a delicious way.
Get cookin'! Let your kids help prepare a meal with you. Your kids can feel as though they are your little helpers and you can teach them the value of eating healthy foods with nutrients such as nuts and fish. If you're eating out consider these simple ideas:
Make sure to cut back on portion sizes too. Use smaller plates for all family members.
Move! Now that the weather has finally cooled off, it's a great opportunity to enjoy the scenery at one of the great area parks: Washington, Lincoln, Southwind, or hike through Lincoln Memorial Gardens or Lincoln's New Salem. The Jr. Blues hockey team are back in action, so why not go to a game and then give hockey a try, either on the ice or not. Show the kids that exercising can be fun. And limit screen time! Kids are spending too much time watching TV, playing video games and surfing the web. Get them up and get active instead - take a walk, bike ride, play tag, hide and seek or roller blade together as a family.
There are many more resources available on this topic. I always find myself checking out www.HealthierKidsBrighterFutures.org and www.kidseatright.org for fun and affordable ideas. With some time and attention, these ideas can become part of a healthy life. This October, make the little changes that will last a lifetime.
Gayle Jennings, MS, RD, LDN, is a consultant to the food and beverage industry including Coca-Cola.