10 tips to reverse a child’s weight gain, unhealthy habits

Dr. Ariza, who provides patients with tools to make informed decisions about their health, shared in EEHealth’s Healthy Drive Blog that the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to weight gain for many of us, including our kids.

Have your child’s eating habits gotten unhealthy and out of control? If you’re like many parents and worried about your child’s excess weight, you aren’t alone.

The pandemic forced kids to stay home and switch to e-learning. To cut back on grocery store trips, families stocked up on shelf-stable (and calorie-dense) foods. Kids ate poorly and moved less. They became glued to their screens.

These factors combined have resulted in unhealthy eating habits and weight gain among children. A recent study in Pediatrics revealed that obesity rates among children ages 2 through 17 increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

How can you reverse unhealthy habits and help your child shed those extra pounds for better lifelong health? Here are 10 tips to get started:

  1. Eat healthy as a family, including a balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein, in reasonably sized portions. Limit sugars, saturated fats, salty snacks, and processed foods.
  2. Don’t place junk food completely off-limits, just have it in smaller quantities and less often.
  3. Ensure your child eats breakfast every morning to reduce hunger later in the day.
  4. Encourage drinking lots of water throughout the day.
  5. Teach your child about being mindful when eating and listening to his/her body’s cues.
  6. Include your child in grocery shopping and cooking. Let him/her choose what to eat among healthy options.
  7. Rather than using the word “diet,” talk about good nutrition and healthy eating.
  8. Don’t talk negatively about weight. Emphasize that what matters most is being healthy.
  9. Help your child stay active by encouraging at least an hour of physical activity daily. Exercise as a family so it’s a team effort.
  10. Limit screen time to no more than 1-2 hours daily.

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The National Healthy Schools Collaborative’s Ten-Year Roadmap

Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK) shared that the COVID-19 pandemic has made clear how connected health and learning are. We cannot return to the pre-pandemic status quo which left millions of children and adults in unhealthy schools. AFHK has teamed up with dozens of amazing health and education organizations as part of the National Healthy Schools Collaborative to strengthen our school systems.

The National Healthy Schools Collaborative’s Ten-Year Roadmap directly addresses the child health crisis currently facing our country by offering a comprehensive blueprint to create healthy schools over the next decade with hundreds of opportunities to take action at the federal, state, and local levels.

Like AFHK, it recognizes and advances the mental, physical, social, and emotional well-being of students and school staff as a fundamental strategy for effective teaching and learning.

Illinois Schools Will Begin Offering Plant-Based Lunches

Under a new law, children in Illinois will have access to plant-based school lunches for the first time. House Bill 4089, recently signed by Governor JB Pritzer, mandates all Illinois school districts to provide plant-based meals that meet federal nutrition guidelines. Scheduled to take effect on August 23, 2023, the law is expected to set a precedent for other school districts across the US.

Helping students thrive

Sponsored by State Representative Cyril Nichols of Chicago and State Senator Dave Koehler, HB 4089 requires schools to offer plant-based meals on request, and accommodate other religious dietary restrictions, such as kosher and halal. According to its sponsors, the legislation aims to ensure students have access to healthy and affordable meals.

“Well-rounded, nutritious parts of all kinds are vital to students’ ability to learn and succeed,” said Nichols, House sponsor of the legislation. “Offering more healthy lunch options in our schools helps our students thrive.” Read more

Obesity Cares Week Follow-Up

IT’S A WRAP! OBESITY CARE WEEK 2022 WAS A TREMENDOUS SUCCESS

This year, OCW hosted its 8th annual week-long event which was supported by 112 Champion organizations across the globe. OCW2022 prioritized ACTION and participants had the chance to change the way we care for obesity by writing to local, state, and federal decision-makers urging them to prioritize obesity care and stop weight bias. Obesity Action Coalition is a proud Founding Champion of OCW and works hard each year to make it a powerful opportunity for change! To learn more about Obesity Care Week or to sign up for alerts please visit ObesityCareWeek.org.

MARCH HEALTH TALKS WITH DR. CONNIE STAPLETON ON EATING DISORDERS: WHAT TO KNOW AND IDENTIFYING THE SIGNS

In OAC’s next Health Talk, licensed psychologist Connie Stapleton, PhD, will provide helpful information about the different types of eating disorders and their impact on your physical and mental health, while also offering hands-on tools to recognize and treat them. Join us NEXT THURSDAY, March 31st, at 7 p.m. ET on YouTube. SIGN UP HERE TO ATTEND Read more

Make Healthy Eating Appealing to Kids

Nicole Palmieri, who is currently studying Dietetics at the University of Dayton, shared with Healthy Lombard that…

It is well-known for children to dislike vegetables. Even though they are nutritious and beneficial for our health, they can taste bitter and less satiating to kids. This being so, there are numerous ways to make healthy eating more appealing to your children!

Evaluate their plate

First, look at how the food is being presented to your child. Is the food cooked? Is it paired with a dipping sauce, or plain on its own? Is it just one vegetable that is rejected, or multiple? To find solutions, experiment with how the food is chosen, cooked, and presented. There is a rich and wide variety of vegetables to select from at the grocery store to diversify what your child consumes. You could make a goal to have them try a new vegetable every week, observe if they like one more than the other, and then start to repeat the ones they do like into their diet.

Another aspect to make healthy foods appealing to kids is to consider how it is plated and served. Raw broccoli might not go over well with them, but roasted broccoli that is charred and more flavorful could be better received. Another idea could be steaming the broccoli and pairing it with a cheese sauce to get a serving of dairy in, too! With most foods, there is much flexibility and versatility for preparing them in a way that is enjoyable for the eater. Additionally, serving a platter of raw vegetables or fruit may not encourage kids to eat them, but presenting them in different ways could be more motivating. For example, “ants on a log” is a popular snack because it is nutritious, entertaining, and delicious! To make, cut up stalks of celery to bite-sized pieces, add peanut butter to the crevices, and top it off with the “ants,” which are raisins! Another idea is to make a friendly face on a serving of pancakes by using fruit such as banana, strawberries, and orange slices! Read more

Your holiday eating survival guide

Toni Havala, Registered Dietitian, Endeavor Health Weight Loss Clinic in Naperville shared in the Edward-Elmhurst Healthy Driven Bog that the holidays are (almost) officially here! That means parties, hot chocolate, hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, sweets, eating on the go—and often added stress.

The average person gains two pounds or fewer during the holidays, but studies have found that the weight remains until the next holiday. Here are some tips to keep that weight gain from snowballing.
  • Plan ahead. Start each week by planning dinners, stocking healthy snacks, and scheduling your workouts. This is not the time of year to try new and complicated recipes.  Familiar recipes will take less time and reduce stress.
  • Eat before you leave for the party. Eat something small before you face party food and drinks. That way you won’t arrive with an empty stomach and make bad choices. Eat some fruit, vegetables, a handful of nuts, or some Greek yogurt before you head out the door.
  • Step away from the buffet. Most holiday get-togethers include a buffet or hors d’oeuvres table. Once you fill your plate with one layer of food, walk away from the table.  Try to focus on fresh salads, crudités, and lean proteins like shrimp, turkey, and ham. Avoid the high-calorie bread, pasta, and cheese-laden items.
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Sugar, Delicious but Dangerous

College of DuPage Nursing Student Raquel wrote for Healthy Lombard that sugar is delicious, and it can be found in a lot of foods. Sugar has been a trending topic for a long time, but unfortunately, it can cause serious health problems. Many foods, from snacks to fast foods, contain excess sugar and may, therefore, become addicting. Addiction to sugar is a real issue, and many foods containing high concentrations of sugar are cheap and easily accessible. The high consumption of sugar daily, among other things, is contributing to soaring rates of childhood obese obesity, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes.

Sugar in excess is detrimental to health. Abstaining from sugar may be difficult. To begin with, it is helpful to recognize diverse types of sugars that are added to the foods we consume daily such as corn syrup, cane sugar, and fructose (Kubala 2019). Many foods have added sugar in order to make them more flavorful, which increases the calorie content. Food items such as pop, candy, chewy granola bars, ice cream, and many others have excess calories. According to the Coca-Cola website, one 12 ounces can contain 39 grams of sugar (The Coca-Cola Company, 2021). The American Heart Association (AHA, 2021) recommended a mere six teaspoons per day of sugar for women and nine for men.            Another issue with added sugars in food is it tends to be less filling. Foods high in sugar typically contain less protein or are completely lacking in protein. Protein is a nutrient essential for stable blood sugar (glucose) levels which regulate hormones causing hunger (Kubala 2019). Many foods are low in fat, but additional sugar may be added to enhance flavor. It is important to read food labels to know what is in the food we are consuming each day. Read more

Childhood Obesity

College of DuPage Nursing Student  Savita Paneru researched for Healthy Lombard that the causes of obesity are both genetic and biological in origin. If one parent is obese there is a 50 percent chance that he or she will be obese, if both parents are obese, there is an 80 percent chance that their children will be obese (CDC,2021). Non-genetic causes of pediatric obesity include poor eating habits, binge-eating, lack of exercise, and family history of obesity. Depression and social-emotional problems can contribute to obesity. Stress in the home may affect the child, such as from parents who argue or abuse in the family. If the child is not able to talk to someone for support outside the home, they will find a way to distract themselves by eating too much (CDC, 2021).  Because of mobile phones and television children spend less time outside playing and more time sitting in their room, watching television, and end up gaining weight.

There are a number of risks and complications of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, increased risk of heart disease, breathing problems, sleeping problems (CDC, 2021). Diabetes is the number one risk associated with childhood obesity, almost 50 percent of obese children are diagnosed with diabetes (CDC, 2021). Excess fat affects the arteries and causes difficulty in blood flow, contributing to heart problems in adulthood. Obesity not only affects the child physically but also emotionally, making it difficult for the child to have peers to play with at times.

To consider the physical cause of obesity, obese children need a complete evaluation by their pediatrician. In the absence of a physical cause, the only way to lose weight is to decrease extra calories by increasing physical activity. In children, it is easy to increase physical activity by playing outdoor games, like badminton, soccer, or running. When these activities are fun, they are more enjoyable. Kids have a habit of eating snacks more consistently, and excess weight may be prevented by limiting these snacks. Also, parents should never use food as a reward. Healthy habits such as walking and running will encourage children to appreciate these activities and enjoy doing them.

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Pediatric Pandemic Pounds

College of DuPage Nursing Student Christian M. Olea-Urrutia researched for Healthy Lombard that physical exercise is beneficial to the development and health benefits of children. With obesity trends raising in America and multiple barriers hindering the goal of achieving physical activity, one more barrier that has been added to the long list is the global COVID-19 pandemic. Extracurricular activities were completely canceled in 2020 through the early months of 2021, and this was compounded by e-learning and a lack of P.E. classes. Regardless of individual opinions behind the decision to isolate and social distance, one fact is true, kids still need to play.

From the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2021a) website, for children ages, 2-19 years of age, the prevalence of obesity includes 19.3% or 20% of pediatric individuals, or one in every five children who are currently obese. The numbers reflect those kids with a BMI in the 95th percentile or greater (CDC, 2021b). This does not include those children who are considered overweight, which involves a BMI in the 85% to 95% percentile range. To prevent childhood overweight and obesity, it is important for parents to find ways to engage children in play and activities. The challenging part is figuring out a way to do this while making it enjoyable for both parents and children.

Good examples in the past year and a half, come from parents of families who have been forced into an e-learning situation. They have been transformed into homeroom teachers, lunchroom attendants, and P.E. instructors. The pressure has been put on the parents, on how to engage children in physical activity.  They were judicial in spacing out time spent in sedentary activities, to those time in active play. In large part because the parents were tired of being cooped inside the house as well. Midday playtime being allowed in the middle of the “E-Lerner” school day was beneficial to give the mentally fatigued student. In another post “school day” playtime session, most parents, find it helpful to give their children time away from a computer screen. With Zoom, and homework being digital, screen time exposure to children has drastically increased. Read more

Loss of Sleep for School Age Children and Adolescents

College of DuPage Nursing Student Sammie Prince researched that with school back in session, late nights and early mornings become the daily routine of adolescents again. From the freedom of summer to the stricter schedule of school and outside activities, it is easy for students to lose sleep.

Although some may not believe it, children require more sleep on average than adults. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2019) recommends that children between 6 and 12 years of age get between 9 and 12 hours of sleep per day. Those who are between 13 and 18 years should have at least 8 to 10 hours of sleep per day.  For an age group that may resist sleeping, it is imperative for their growth and development, and for proper mind and body function.

School is filled with early mornings and late nights, which may become normal for the adult population, but needs to be discussed further with the adolescent. Children and adolescents have multiple commitments and responsibilities that, at times, may be hard to fit in one day. The CDC (2020) suggests that 6 of 10 middle schoolers do not get enough sleep, and for high schoolers, about 7 of 10 currently do not get enough sleep. Read more