Studies showed results that the more weight a baby gains before he/she reaches two years old, the heavier he/she will tend to be as an older child and later, as an adult. It claimed that if one parent or both parents are obese, the issue will be even more.
Health professionals confirm that eating habits and physical activity are patterns learned during children, whether they are healthy or unhealthy. These patterns will likely to prevail for a lifetime. Overweight children who are as young as 3 to 4 years old are beginning to increase their insulin, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels.
Generally, people especially parents are missing crucial signs, especially their boys, when their children are “chubby.” A study pointed out that more children become very heavy where the average child’s waist went up to two sizes after 20 years. The difficult part? How to improve these children’s eating habits and lifestyle, and that means improving ours too.
What we have here are things you need to know, as parents, to guide your children from their birth up to grade school to maintain a healthy weight.
From zero to one year babies
Nursing babies can minimize the risks of overweight in their later childhood and beyond. Nutrients that are found in breast milk help regulate their appetite and body fats. However, studies show that breastfed babies can only take in only as much as they need. Milk production responds accordingly.
Babies who are bottle-fed reject the urge that encourage them to finish the last ounce, whether it is expressed breast milk or milk formula – after they gave us sign that they are full. Health professionals also said that we do not have to feed our babies automatically whenever they cry because may be, all they need is attention.
It is not also encouraged to rush our babies to take solids. It is acceptable to begin feeding them with solids as early as when they reach 4 months old, or may be wait until they are 6 months old. And when they do, do not demand to empty their plates. Dr. Christine Wood, author of “How to Get Kids to Eat Great and Love It!”, said “When he turns his head away, the meal’s over.”
Being Physically Active
What you need to provide our young children during this period are safe, soft toys and open space where they can roll over, crawl, and push and pull activities. However, avoid forcing them to do extreme movements like “feet over head.”
One to Three Years Old Toddlers
Many parents did not realize that their toddlers are in the stage with unreasonable eating of unhealthy calories. Limit 100%-juice intake from 4 to 6 ounces daily for 1 to 6 years old children. Fruit beverages and sugary soda should not be included in the children’s meals. Serve low-fat milk and water.
Do not begin difficult-to-quit eating habits such as eating in front of a television or eating on fast foods. Avoid practices like pacifying a restless or a crying toddler with unhealthy snacks.
Take note also that they have to eat in between meals if they are hungry with healthy foods like bite-sized fruits and vegetables, low-fat yogurt, or a string cheese. Avoid those choking hazard like hard chunks of fruits and vegetables or whole grapes.
Being Physically Active
As your toddlers start to walk, allow them to move on his natural desire to move. Slow down so that our toddlers can climb the stairs and walk. Always include outside play with other children in their activities. Hannah Storm, author of Go Girl! Raising Healthy, Confident and Successful Girls Through Sports, shared her own story, “When my daughters were two, four, and six, we all loved to go out in the yard, pretend we were the Powerpuff Girls, and chase each other around.”
During rainy days or snow time, find ways for them to be active indoors such as wrestling on the rug or dancing. Health professionals suggest that toddlers should have at least thirty minutes of structured activity and one to more hours of unstructured activities every day.
Three to Five Years Old Preschoolers
Teach them to practice portion control by serving preschoolers with 1 tablespoon for every year of age. A basic meal for a three-year old might be 3 tablespoons each of pasta ( we suggest whole wheat), chicken, peas, and fruit. Well, if your preschooler does not want them all, it’s ok.
But what if your toddler only wants carbs, also known as the white diet while leaving all else on the plate? Demanding “veggies-first” or using food as reward may backfire since young children is inclined to like the reward than “have-to eat” foods. We suggest to prepare just enough for one or two toddler-sized serving.
Being Physically Active
Be ready for the more physical activities of preschoolers – frisbee, kickball, hopscotch, bike riding, and even dancing. Take note watching television is basically not one of them. When he reaches 3 years old, these young children need an hour of structured and another one hour up to more hours of unstructured play activities. Their activities should not be sedentary for over an hour.
As parents, we do not have to do much to get them moving during this period. When the weather allows it, open the door for the kids and let them play outside.
Five Years Old and Beyond School kids
As parents, we should always find quality time to teach our children about nutrition. Take how Joy Bauer, licensed dietitian, does it with her children. She tries to help each to prepare a list of their favorite treats in quantity, that are not healthy for their “teeths or insides.” She lets one or a couple of days or any time they pick and keeps portions within reason by giving them small portions like “bite-sized” candy bars.
Bauer also recommends that allowing children to use stickers to note each time they eat vegetables and fruits, and other healthy foods.
If you have already allowed sugar and other unhealthy calories in the diet of your kids, try to slowly begin to take them out of your kids’ plates. Gradually, remove sugary cereals and start giving them healthy “lookalike” foods.
Being Physically Active
This time, our child can share fully in family activities like biking, hiking, and skating. These early grade school years are excellent period to try different sports and dance, from team sports (basketball, soccer) to individual sports such as ballet, karate, gymnastics, and the like.
During this age, children should have at least one hour of moderate to arduous activities per day with breaks. Or, it does not need to be all at once but 10 to 15 minutes at a time is fine. This is the right time to guide them to find creative ways to enjoy physical activities instead of electronics and gadgets.
Bottom line, healthy eating habits and lifestyle can be “caught” during one’s younger age. Once, we learn them the right way, it will persist until we get older. Preventing obesity means practicing healthy eating habits and physical activities.
You may also want to read about how healthy foods can make us very sick.