I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.
We hear it practically every day. People, including children and teens, are getting heavier. Experts say we are eating too much unhealthy, high-calorie/high-sugar foods and are not active enough.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century,” and the problem is global. WHO also states, “Overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and more likely to develop non communicable diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age. Overweight and obesity, as well as their related diseases, are largely preventable. Prevention of childhood obesity therefore needs high priority.”
I personally am not in a position to doubt statistics compiled by the leading world health authorities. But people are not statistics, people are individuals, and growing up is tough enough. Being overweight or obese, and hearing negative statements about one’s changing body can make life even more difficult, but adapting to a healthier lifestyle is possible if done in the right way.
Of course, parents and guardians want the best for their children, especially when it comes to their health, which includes weight. But do grown-ups always know best? Are the adults in the family making themselves good role models when it comes to a healthy lifestyle? As they say on airplanes before take-off, should it be required, you (as an adult) need to put on your oxygen face mask first before helping others (i.e., you need to be their lifeline).
With schools going back into session after summer vacation, August is a great time to start your kids off on the right foot. The Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics agrees. That is why they have anointed August as Kids Eat Right Month.
In keeping with the theory that you have to walk before you can run, taking small steps to a healthier lifestyle makes more sense than trying to incorporate dramatic changes that will never be maintained long-term and set one up for failure.
One of the small steps that’s recommended by nutritionists and dietitians is to reduce the amount of added sugar you eat. In a recent Q and A about weight loss in children, here is what the American Academy of Pediatrics says:
Can I give my children foods sweetened with no- and low-calorie sweeteners?
“Noncaloric sweeteners, also called no- and low-calorie sweeteners, or sugar substitutes, add sweetness to foods and beverages without adding calories. According to the American Dietetic Association [now called the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics], foods and beverages sweetened with noncaloric sweeteners can be incorporated into a healthy eating plan. Noncaloric sweeteners can help make reduced-calorie foods and beverages taste better, which can help in long-term weight maintenance.”
It’s always helpful when changing your diet or exercise habits to take some small steps at first. Consider these tips below – most apply to everyone, adults and kids alike. Taking it slow and not expecting miracles can make the leap to a healthier diet a whole lot easier!
- Increasing physical activity and encouraging healthier eating is a great place to start.
- When helping children and teens get to (and maintain) a healthy weight, think of the goal as being to slow their rate of weight gain and not always to lose weight. (This gives their bodies a chance to catch up with their weight as they grow.)
- Some foods don't offer much besides calories from fat and sugar. Eating less of them is a great way to save empty calories. For example, you can save 110-150 calories by drinking water or no-calorie/low-calorie drinks instead of a 12 fl. oz. serving of a sugar-sweetened beverage. And about 150 calories by eating a small piece of fruit instead of a 2 oz. candy bar.
- Everyone should get about 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Unfortunately, it’s not happening. To get your kids moving, limit TV and computer time; plan activities like a hike or a trip to the park; encourage chores like making the bed, washing the car, or vacuuming. Be a role model by becoming more active yourself.
- Even 5 or 10 minute spurts of movement throughout the day add up and are just as beneficial as 60 minutes at one time.
Most would agree that cutting out sweet treats altogether makes for a pretty dull day! Instead of high-sugar sweets, give these yummy chilled treats a tryout during the remaining hot summer weeks. All of the recipes use SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated in place of sugar. Your children are sure to enjoy them and you can feel good about providing treats with less added sugar.
NOTE: As always, it is recommended to consult with your healthcare provider for guidance before making any changes in your child’s lifestyle.
Sue Taylor is a consulting nutritionist with more than 35 years of experience. She is passionate about sharing her nutrition knowledge and fondness for good, healthy food. Sue will put relevant information in consumer terms and provide valuable perspective to clear up misinformation and confusion about nutrition and food safety.
- World Health Organization, “Childhood overweight and obesity”
- American Academy of Pediatrics, “Combating Obesity: Frequently Asked Questions About Food Choices”