As a country and even throughout the world, we have come to realize that we are facing a crisis when it comes to our health and especially our weight. Really it has gone too far as we are no longer affecting just ourselves; we are hurting our children and our future generation.
What are the issues, what is causing this, and how can we reverse the reality so many obese toddlers are facing?
Research shows that what a child weighs even at two and three plays a real factor in determining what they will weigh as young teens and even adults. The toddler years are a crucial time period for development because this is when our children refine their habits and practices that they will carry throughout their lives.
Another danger obese toddlers face is that being severely overweight can lead to inflammation of the arteries which then leads to heart disease. Even still, there are many other ailments and diseases such as diabetes, calcium deficiency, tooth decay, and overall poor health both mentally and physically. If obese toddlers continue their poor habits into their school years they may have a hard time finding clothes they feel comfortable in. In addition to already feeling out of place, they will find that there are many social challenges in front of them such as being made fun of or not being physically able to engage in many activities with their peers. And these are just some of the health risks associated with this disease.
How did we get here and why are our children gaining so much weight so quickly?
It is all due to the patterns and examples they learn. If we look at the unhealthy foods our grandmas love to cook we see that it is what she was fed as a child and learned to cook. This pattern is passed on from one generation to another, adding worse foods as we go. We have been introduced to high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives, hydrogenated foods with ingredients we can’t even pronounce, and we naively integrate them into our child’s diet.
It is similar to the cigarette industry: they give you a product, get you hooked, and then they announce the warnings.
But now we have to realize that we do have the power to eradicate this problem and put an end to this crisis before it is too late. So what can we do?
Start at home: Remember that healthy eating habits are set by example not words. Eat healthy foods in a relaxed environment as a family. Set a schedule for meal and snack times so there is not an abundance of unnecessary calories being consumed throughout the day — be aware of portion control for the entire family. Do physical, family activities at least a couple times a week. Pack lunches and snacks so you can keep a closer eye on what your family is eating.
Get back to nature: Obviously the more natural the food you eat the better it will be for you. I am not saying we all have to be rabbits but if we make a conscious effort to eat more organically, our bodies will thank us for it.
There are some things to be careful of though if you think your family could be headed down the road for obesity or just want to make healthy changes. Make your changes slowly and with items your family will actually eat. I have had great success, as I have mentioned before, with ground turkey instead of hamburger, whole grain pasta instead of white, brown rice, and so on. The changes don’t have to be drastic and shouldn’t be because you don’t want your family to be in shock.
DO NOT put obese toddlers or overweight children on a “diet” or let them know you think they are overweight because this can shatter their self-esteem and set bad patterns for the future. Slowly make changes and set the example in healthy eating and physical activity. Remember it is all about you setting the new pattern for them to follow for the rest of their life.
DO NOT use food as a reward or comfort because this is another pattern we often follow as adults.. Affection and quality time is the best reward or comfort in a child’s life. Acknowledgment of their achievements is key and can be represented by a sticker board or whatever else works in your home.
Always try to focus on their positive qualities and give them the necessary self-esteem needed to keep them on the good pattern you are setting.
Together as parents and grandparents we can change this cycle and go from heart disease at a young age to a healthy generation that hasn’t been seen in decades.
Healthy Snacks for Toddlers and Children
Foods to Avoid or use Sparingly
More and more there are foods available that are organic and healthy, and there are even some convenient foods out there that are healthy. Checkout your produce section for prepared fruits. Many deli areas have prepared meals like soup or rotisserie chicken that you can grab for a quick dinner. Try making homemade popcorn instead of microwave, its tasty and you control what is on it.
Do some research and look around your grocery stores for ways to make your tomorrow a healthier one.
Have any tips or healthy recipes to share? We’d love to hear about them!