Optimum Wellness Presented by King Soopers

The American College of Sports Medicine has deemed September as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Statistics show that approximately 20 to 30% children in the United States are overweight. This is a public travesty. Obese kids are more likely to become obese adults. Obesity puts kids (and adults) at risk for both physical, mental, and emotional health challenges. On top of that, obese kids are often the targets of bullying at school, which tends to only complicate the issue further, rather than encourage any positive behavior changes.

So who or what is to blame? Sometimes obesity runs in the family. When one or both parents are overweight, the child(ren) is more likely to be overweight. Either way, childhood obesity is not just a family affair; it is a public health problem that deserves attention.

What can be done? This is a more complicated answer than calories in = calories out. Balance is key. Our kids are too sedentary. They sit most of the day at school (or home), then they either come home and sit some more with hours of homework, or they plop down in front of the television. Some schools have initiated a zero-hour physical education class where kids are encouraged to exercise before classes start. That is a good start. Getting kids engaged in physical activities or sports to supplement their studies is also important. Taking a walk or hike together as a family encourages not only fitness, but fosters healthy communication between family members.

In terms of calories, quality needs to be taken into account as much as (or even more so than) quantity. A balance of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains (not refined flour foods), lean protein and healthy fats are all important. Staying hydrated with just plain water is essential. Kids are becoming rapidly addicted to over-sugared sports drinks, energy drinks, and juice (which has as much sugar as soda in many cases).

Encourage children to participate in meal preparation and allow them to choose the vegetable for the night. Keep healthy snacks on hand like raw nuts and seeds, fresh fruit, organic string cheese, natural yogurt (plain) that you can add your own fruit to, natural snack bars that don’t contain any partially hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners or colorings and contain at least 7 grams of protein.

National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month is really about promoting active lifestyles and encouraging kids, parents, and caregivers to make and provide healthy food choices in our homes and our communities. Kids (and adults) are encouraged to get outside and move their bodies for 60 minutes per day (weather permitting). And if the weather isn’t conducive to that, move it indoors with jump ropes and calisthenics. Empower kids to make their own healthy choices to set them up for success.

Encourage a “digital sunset” where kids are no longer in front of their phones or televisions after a certain time, preferably at least 2 hours prior to bed. Sleep is essential. Compromised sleep or inadequate sleep can actually contribute to the problem and making losing weight more challenging. Setting up a peaceful, uncluttered, inviting sleep environment is key to success.

Great Snack Ideas for Healthy Kids:
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables… (optional: dip in 1 tablespoon almond butter or peanut butter or serve with 2 tablespoons hummus)
½ Sweet Potato
Cooked Green Beans
Cottage Cheese
Cucumber Slices
Hard boiled egg
Honeydew Melon
Orange or Mandarin (Cuties)
Organic Apple
Organic Celery
Organic Grapes
Organic Strawberries (good with plain yogurt)
Peaches (good with yogurt)
Protein Smoothie
Raw nuts and seeds (almonds, pistachios, walnuts, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)
Raw Sliced Bell Peppers
Raw Sugar Snap Peas
String Cheese (just one)
Turkey slices (rolled up or rolled around a piece of string cheese)
Whole Grain (organic) (or Gluten Free) crackers – 10 max