Our kids get some nutrition education in school. Things like vitamins, minerals, basic healthy eating are covered. Then it’s time to talk about drugs, AIDS, cigarette smoking – absolutely important topics to cover with children. I think we should be putting good nutrition in that same category. Why should we eat well and maintain a healthy weight? Let me ask you another question – why should you not do drugs or not smoke cigarettes? Schools teach children the health risks of these behaviors but spend too little time on the implications of poor nutrition. Maybe we should be teaching our children just how dangerous eating poorly can be to our health. What if we were to show them an obese person huffing and puffing going up stairs, not fitting in a seat on an airplane, giving themselves insulin injections, someone getting the news they need triple bypass surgery, not getting a call back for a job interview based on their appearance. Hey, I’m not saying I agree with the fact people are judged on their appearances but, unfortunately, they are. The consequences of being obese are too numerous to mention, both psychological and physical. I also am not saying we use scare tactics. I think we need to be honest with ourselves and realize this country has a health crisis with regard to obesity which has infiltrated down to our youth.
What can we do? Listed below are some ideas.
- First and foremost, as parents/caregivers, we need to model healthy eating behavior. It cannot work if we tell our children to “do as we say, not as we do.”
- Pediatricians need to focus on the importance of healthy BMI’s with their patients. Urge parents to see other health professionals if needed.
- Educate. Make it a priority in schools to get the message out there that having good nutrition and exercise habits is as important as not smoking or not doing drugs.
- Not only educate kids during the school day, but provide an afterschool or evening program for overweight kids teaching weight management techniques and exercise.
- Many schools obtain children’s BMI percentiles and send them home to parents. Then what? How about providing some resources to get some help? Providing a list of local registered dietitians may be helpful.
- Restaurants need to get on board making menu improvements. I think a great start would be to cut back on portion sizes.
- Kids don’t want to eat something labelled healthy or good for you. Let’s start making these foods more “normal” and not something health fanatics eat.
- Encourage exercise – you don’t have to be “athletic” to move your body. It is something our bodies need to keep healthy.
- Let’s stop the supersizing! What a horrible concept.
The bottom line is we need to show our youth as parents, as a community and as a nation that good health is vital and important to living a productive, enjoyable life (maybe focus on the latter with kids!). Let’s teach them, as we say as adults, if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything. It’s true.