Meaghan Avery, Senior Program Director – Healthy Living, OLD COLONY YMCA
According to the CDC, 1 in 5 children are living with obesity. Conversations about weight and health can be difficult but they are important to have with your child to help them lead a happy and healthy life as an adult. It is imperative to approach these conversations in a manner that allows your child to feel supported and continue on to having a healthy body image, and relationship with physical activity and nutrition.
Healthy eating habits can be developed with a positive attitude and open dialogue. It is important to focus on fueling little ones’ bodies as opposed to focusing on weight loss, calories, etc. Have open conversations with your family about the USDA My Plate method. Using this visual can show the importance of a well-balanced meal including portion suggestions of fruits/vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. Talk about how certain foods will keep us full longer because of the nutrients that they have in them. Foods should never be categorized as “Good” or “Bad”. When there is an understanding that some foods provide us with more nutrients than others it can be a helpful conversation tool for when a child might not want to choose a “healthy” snack. Instead of labeling a food choice as “bad” ask, “How will the snack nourish your body?”, “What can we pair with the snack you chose to make it a heartier snack?”, “What food group is this snack missing that we can make sure our next meal has?” Take time to sit down as a family at the start of the week with a printed graphic of the My Plate and allow each to take part in the planning of meals for the week. Always approach these conversations with kindness and understanding that it all comes down to nourishing our bodies and having a healthy relationship with food.
Along with healthy eating comes the importance of moving our bodies. Make movement fun! Exercise does not always have to include sit-ups or time spent on a treadmill and for children, it certainly does not have to focus on burning calories! As a family, work on writing down all of the games and activities that each person enjoys doing that involve moving their bodies. Add twists to the classics like Simon Says, Freeze, the Listening Game, etc. Take turns each week where a member of the family leads the activity. Be open to trying new activities like a new walking path, a game you saw online, a sport you have never tried anything that gets everyone up and moving TOGETHER!
Healthy relationships with food and movement are made at home! Children are very perceptive to the world around them and it is important that they see healthy eating and physical activity in a positive light and do not develop negative feelings towards their bodies at an early age to ensure that they can have a lifelong relationship with health and wellness. Approaching them as a family unit will allow everyone to have an understanding of the importance of nourishing themselves and moving their bodies to stay healthy and strong.