Vijaya Botla RD, LD
AAPI, The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, created the Be Fit. Be Cool.
Childhood Obesity Awareness Campaign to help tackle a problem we are seeing all too frequently in children all over the world:
kids eating and drinking more processed foods as well as leading more sedentary lives which in most cases is leading to increases in weight. It’s simple math; if you consume more calories than you burn, then those excess calories are converted into fat and stored in the body. Over time this continued extra weight gain could lead to health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and other problems.
However, there is a way to help greatly decrease the chances of obesity by following this simple formula:
5 - Eat at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Loading up on fruits and veggies throughout the day provide us much needed vitamins and minerals with very few calories and the fiber in them help us feel fuller so we eat less. When we increase fruit and vegetable consumption, we are decreasing our intakes of some other high calorie foods which will help us stay fit.
Remember that potatoes, corn and peas are considered starches so they can’t be counted as a vegetable, sorry! Most children don’t have a problem eating fruits but sometimes its more difficult to get them to eat vegetables. Remember to introduce new vegetables one at a time and if your child won’t eat them the first time, continue to offer but don’t force them to try it. Over time most learn to like a variety of vegetables so be patient!
2 - Limit recreational screen time to less than 2 hours per day. This would include TV, computers, video games, smart phones, iPads, etc. Children can spend hours each day on these devices which require you to be seated and rarely involves exercising more than your fingers. When we limit the use of electronic devices, our children must find other activities to occupy their time. In most cases, it will be playing on their own or with friends and increasing their physical activity.
1 - Exercise or do some activity for at least one hour per day. Children naturally love to play and have fun with friends and family. Kids have a lot of pent up energy and being able to release that in a positive way can be beneficial in many ways. Kids who exercise daily tend to be more relaxed, have less stress and are less likely to be obese than those who do not.
Make physicial activity a family affair and join your child when they play because what’s good for them is also good for us! When daily physical activity is made a priority, you are teaching your child that their health is just as important as their grades and manners.
0 - No sugary drinks and limit sweets. Soft drinks are often called “empty calories” because their calories provide little to no vitamins, minerals, protein or other essential nutrients besides sugar. Also, the carbonation in soft drinks tend to leach calcium from their bones which with continued daily consumption could lead to poor bone health. Even though fruit juices have vitamins and minerals they also have a lot of calories with little to no fiber (what is probably the most important part of the fruit).
Children nowadays are drinking more and more soft drinks and juices and less water. Water is calorie free but has such an essential part in maintaining our body’s health. Make sure that your child is consuming at least 4-8 glasses a day. Have them take a water bottle when they go out to play or exercise as our bodies can quickly become dehydrated.
Sweets should be reserved for special occasions and should not be a daily habit because they are usually high in calories and fat. Fruits can be just as satisfying and are much lower in calories and fat free so offer fruits either cut up and whole to your child.
Remember to incorporate 5-2-1-0 slowly into your daily routine. Too much change too quick can lead to your child (and you) to be overwhelmed. Start with a couple more fruits and vegetables per day and slowly decrease their recreational screen time.
Start encouraging your child to be more physically active. Start slow and work your way up to at least one hour over the course of a few weeks. Decrease the number of soft drinks per day to just one glass or can and slowly eliminate all together. Good luck and Be Fit. Be Cool.
*The views expressed in this article are those of the dietitian and may not reflect those of AAPI