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Maintaining a Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 5 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Childhood Obesity Overweight Kids

It is important for kids and teens to eat well and exercise daily in order to not only maintain healthy weights but to safeguard both their short and long term health. Childhood obesity stems from a number of causes, both dietary and activity related. Today's families are busier than ever, but in their rush to accomplish all of the things on their to-do lists, many parents are neglecting the basics of good nutrition and robust exercise, putting their kids at risk for futures riddled with illness.

Childhood Obesity - A Worldwide Issue

"It is now official that young people today will have shorter life expectancy than their parents because of bad eating habits learned in childhood." This statement comes from The British Council and refers to the increasingly poor eating habits of children in the UK, but the problem of childhood obesity is by no means limited to the UK. American kids are facing the same dire future if their parents and other carers do not teach them how to eat properly and get sufficient exercise to live healthy lives. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, David S. Ludwig, Director of the Obesity Program at Children's Hospital Boston, is quoted as saying, "Obesity is such that this generation of children could be the first basically in the history of the United States to live less healthful and shorter lives than their parents."

Surely such strong statements must frighten parents and call them to action. Studies indicate that babies born today can be expected to live two to five years less than those of a generation ago, and the cause of this decline is totally and easily reversible. Childhood obesity is a very serious matter -- doctors are reporting an alarming trend in type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney failure, and dietary-related cancers in younger and younger patients. Changes need to be made and the time is now.

Quick and Easy

Today's parents have a lot to handle. Most work full time jobs in addition to caring for their homes and children, many of whom are involved in clubs and activities that require even more time from their already overscheduled parents. All too often, in the rush to get everything done, parents choose foods for themselves and their children based on one factor -- time. If it's quick, it'll have to do. Unfortunately, many of these foods are high in calories, fats, and sugars while offering very little nutritional value. The good news is that there are healthful alternatives that are just as quick and easy, once parents retrain themselves to make wiser selections.

Eating Right

Fresh fruit is possibly one of the best choices for snacks, desserts, and side dishes at mealtimes, and most children will eat fruit without argument. Many fruits require nothing more than a quick washing in order to be ready to eat, and even those that need to be peeled and sliced are ready very quickly. Veggies may not be quite as happily received by children, but when served with low-fat yoghurt dips, most kids will happily munch carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, and radishes.

Crock pots and other slow-cookers allow busy parents to toss ingredients together before leaving for work in the morning so that their families can come home to already prepared healthy meals that are every bit as quick as fast food dinners, but far healthier (and less expensive!). Simple pasta dishes are ready quickly and when whole wheat pasta is topped with tomato based sauce, all that is needed is a tossed salad and a bit of fruit to make a healthy meal that kids will enjoy and parents can feel good about serving.

Get 'em Off the Sofa!

In addition to being fed healthier diets, kids today need to be more active. Many kids and teens are quite sedentary, relying on the television or computer to keep them entertained. Instead, parents should encourage (insist, if necessary) that their children play actively for at least an hour every day, more if possible. Rather than purchasing videos and computer games, parents need to introduce their children to the toys of their own childhoods -- bicycles, roller skates, jump-ropes, and sporting equipment. Ideally, kids should be provided with two things -- a bicycle and a comfortable, supportive pair of shoes -- and should consider biking and walking to be their most commonly used means of transportation, relying on car rides only for long distances or when conditions make it unsafe for them to walk or bike.

Many parents today are so safety focused that they discourage their kids from climbing trees and riding bikes for fear that they may get hurt. What many do not realise is that by keeping their children from these activities, they may trade the possibility of a broken bone for far worse consequences. The foods that today's children and teens are eating, combined with their inactivity, is quite literally killing them.

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