Are you aware that one in three children in America is overweight, and that one third of those children are obese? The statistics are staggering. The adult population isn’t doing much better. What can we do this season to improve our health and that of our children?
As we eagerly await the warmth of spring, we all need motivation to “spring” us (pardon the pun) into healthier habits. What motivates your desire for better health? I’m motivated by feeling more energetic, looking better, and being able to keep up with my kids. Think about your own reasons to make changes: your kids, your energy level, your waistline. Let’s move forward toward a healthier spring. Just think, beach season is just around the corner!
Here are nine strategies I have developed to get us all on a healthier path. I’m happy to be here, walking this very same path with you.
1. Regular exercise - We all know we need regular exercise. Studies show that regular exercise helps to maintain weight, improve stamina, and improve mood. With all those positives, why do we find it so hard to do? Well, exercise takes time and energy, but it’s worth it. Kids need 60 minutes each day. Adults need 30 minutes at least three times a week. Walking the dog counts. Get out there and put some “spring” in your step.
2. Fresh fruits and vegetables - The American diet is lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables. Strive for five fresh fruits and vegetables daily. Vegetables help fill you up, and those who eat fruits and vegetables tend to have healthier weights. Munch on raw veggies instead of chips. Try fruit instead of desert for a naturally sweet treat.
3. Water - H2O is essential to our life. It literally falls from the sky and still we ignore it. Many of us walk around in a mild state of dehydration and wonder why we feel so sluggish. Often thirst masquerades as hunger. Improving your water intake helps you feel more energetic.
4. Avoid soda, juice, and sweetened drinks - Replace soda, juice, and sweetened drinks with water flavored with lemon, lime, cucumber, or fruit slices. Try tea with Splenda. Juice may contribute to obesity. Replace juice with fresh fruit. If we don’t buy sweetened drinks, our family will drink fewer of them.
5. Less screen time - The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children have no more than two hours per day of screen time. This includes TV, computer, laptop, videogames, and cell phone usage. Why the harsh recommendation? Well, if kids are “plugged in,” their muscles are vegged out. They need to move and so do we. They can’t do so attached to the net. Unplug and get moving.
6. More restful sleep - Many kids and adults don’t get enough sleep. Kids need ten hours of sleep each night, and adults need eight hours. The body functions best if it has proper rest. TVs in the bedroom can interfere with our rest.
7. Family fun time - Once a week declare a family fun night. No TV or electronics are allowed. It doesn’t matter what the game is: Sorry, Yahtzee, UNO, Monopoly, etc. The point is just to play. During this family fun time, kids often relax enough to really open up. You just might enjoy each other’s company!
8. Dinner at the table - Remember this? Did dinner at the table as a family go out of style in the 60s? Well, it’s back! Families who share a meal at the table have kids with fewer instances of depression. Consider sharing the high and low points of your day. Folks who eat at the table with the TV off tend to eat one third less than those who eat watching TV.
9. Conversations rather than text messages - Are we losing the ability to have a face-to-face conversation? Look around. How many faces do you see each day buried in a cell phone? As a parent, set limits on the use of devices at your home. No children will die from lack of Instagram, I promise. Consider banning phones at the dinner table and restaurant. Require the kids to turn in phones before bedtime for charging. Use time away from the devices to talk with your kids. Talk after school, at dinner, in the car, and at bedtime. Take the time to talk and really listen to your kids.
These nine tips may just spring your family into better health. Until next month, keep raising today’s child!
Melanie J.Wilhelm, DNP, CPNP, is a Doctor of Nursing Practice and a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at Pediatric Specialists in Norfolk. Her first book, Raising Today’s Baby, is available on Amazon or at www.RaisingTodaysChild.com. Follow her musings on her blog www.RaisingTodaysChild.com. Follow her on Facebook: Dr. Melanie J Wilhelm, DNP, CPNP and twitter @DrMelanie4kids.