Preventing childhood obesity in Canada will require adults to act like adults. That means parents have to eat nutritious meals and exercise. Only then will the kids follow suit.
The Childhood Obesity Foundation points out that only 15 per cent of children were overweight or obese in 1978 and today 29 per cent of adolescents have unhealthy weights. Canada’s Public Health Agency estimates the economic cost of obesity at $4.6 billion in 2008. More critically, kids are at a higher risk of developing many health problems in childhood and as adults. They include: high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, bone and joint problems, low self-esteem and depression.
This bleak outlook is not something we should bequeath to our children. Admittedly, two working parents or a single working parent household is faced with a time crunch. So thinking through healthy meals and getting in a workout is not an easy task.
But where there is will, there is always a way.
Let’s start with breakfast. Most kids want sugar-laden cereals like Apple Cheerios and Cocoa Puffs. My wife and I would be very popular with our young ones if we give in to their wishes. Well, being a parent is not a popularity contest. So we buy plain Cheerios: two grams of sugar compared to the 10 grams in sugary ones. We don’t stock up on apple or any other juice; The kids have a choice of milk or water. Occasionally, they get to have some juice. We try to ensure that there are vegetables and fruits with every meal and a negligible amount of fried or fast foods like pizza and chicken strips.
Despite the fact that I am partial to sugary cereals and fried food (my wife is not), we limit it ourselves. We do that because a lot of research suggests that kids will mimic what we do. As any parent can attest, kids notice the difference between our words and actions. So our actions are what count.
Speaking of action, getting kids into an exercise regimen early is a good idea. Again, modelling this behaviour is more effective than just telling them to walk or run.