Families play a large and dynamic role in shaping the health behaviors of children and the health behaviors they will have throughout their lives. When children and adolescents live with parents, caregivers, or older family members who practice good health behaviors, they are more likely to develop the same positive habits for themselves. These are important points to consider this Childhood Obesity Month, which is observed every September.
While setting a good example is instrumental in influencing youth towards positive health behaviors, encouraging good eating habits through words and actions and providing opportunities for movement and exercise are also critical. Reduce your and your family’s risk for obesity and chronic disease by increasing the fruits and vegetables consumed in your home. You can start by filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables and doing the same for children. Eating together as a family is a great way to reinforce healthy habits. Research shows that children who eat at least three family meals together per week are 24% more likely to be eating healthy foods than children in families with less shared meals. Children who ate with their families were also less likely to be overweight. Exercising together, such as taking a walk, playing a sport, or riding bikes together before or after a meal can help children get into the habit of being active. Reducing screen time can free up time for family activities and can remove cues to eat unhealthy food, such seeing commercials for fast food. Instruct children not to use electronics while they eat their meals to ward against mindless eating.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of children and teens are now overweight or obese. Without intervention, this childhood obesity epidemic can lead to higher rates of chronic disease and higher healthcare costs when these children become adults. Let’s do what we can now so that the next generation can have a healthier future.
American Psychological Association