Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that approximately 17 percent of children ages 2 to 19 are overweight. Needless to say, you don’t have to look very far to find a child who is obese. Obesity increases the risk of hypertension, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and breathing difficulties.
Weight problems during childhood can also lead to lifelong struggles with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and ridicule. The worst part about obesity is that it can shorten a child’s life expectancy by years. Here’s how you can do your part to combat this condition in childcare.
Give kids plenty of opportunities to move. Kids spend up to nine hours a day in early childhood programs. When they get home, they eat dinner, and plop down in front of the television until bedtime. This means the only opportunity kids may have to go outside and play is when they are in childcare.
Children need at least one hour of physical activity each day to manage their weight. This can be easily accomplished by taking them outside. On days when the weather just won’t cooperate, plan indoor movement activities to help youngsters get enough exercise.
Feed children healthy foods. When you plan your menus, incorporate plenty of lean meats, fresh vegetables, whole grains and fresh fruits. Also, be mindful of the way you prepare food. Here are some preparation tips to make foods healthier for children.
• bake or broil chicken and hamburger instead of frying them
• cook in olive oil instead of butter
• use whole grain bread instead of white bread for sandwiches
• sweeten oatmeal with fresh fruit and cinnamon instead of sugar
• bake French fries, fish sticks and chicken nuggets in the oven instead of deep frying them
Don’t pile food on kids’ plates. Children don’t need adult portions of food to get full. Instead of piling food on their plates, start them off with reasonable portion sizes. If kids are still hungry after they finish the first helping, you can always give them more.
Don’t force children to lick their plates clean. Adults often give kids more food than they need. Since eating too much is partially to blame for obesity, kids should never be forced to eat everything on their plates. Rest assured, they’re not going to starve if they leave a few crumbs behind.
Limit junk food at parties and celebrations. In a childcare setting, there is always a birthday or holiday celebration going on. The cupcakes, cookies, candy, chips and fruit punch are endless. No, you don’t have to stop partying or serving cupcakes. You can, however, reduce calories during celebrations by making these changes.
• serve carrot sticks instead of chips
• leave the dip at the store
• serve water instead of fruit punch
• fill cups halfway instead of filling them to the rim with sugary drinks
• serve fresh fruit instead of candy
Kids who suffer with obesity can have a life filled with health problems, ridicule and emotional issues. When you feed children nutritiously, limit junk food, manage portion sizes, and encourage physical activity, you can help fight obesity in your childcare program.