Five Ways to Get Involved; They’ll Thank You Later

Let’s face it, we’re all busy parents.  We work, clean the house, walk the dog, and try and save an hour for ourselves.  As parents, our job is to tutor our kids and mold their impressionable minds, distinguishing right from wrong and good from bad. Here is a list to of ideas to develop healthy eating and exercising habits for your children. Together, you are building lifestyle skills for the future.

1. Plan ahead and develop a meal plan with a nutritionist or online

Nutritionists are in high demand.  Everyone is becoming health conscious with the rise in obesity related diseases. By taking a little time to plan ahead, your life becomes A LOT easier and healthier. With a meal plan, you can put together a list of foods your child will enjoy. No longer will the 5 p.m. doom of “What’s for dinner?” haunt you. Ask other parents and friends for fresh food ideas and the best way to prepare them!

Are your kids picky eaters?  Here is a good blog about “Why Toddlers Don’t Like Eating Vegetables” by Mamapedia that recommends sprinkling a little salt or sugar temporarily on vegetables until your toddler develops the right taste buds. Fresh vegetables are more nutritious and usually better tasting than canned.

Another idea? Get your children involved!  Consider a “make your own pizza” station at home.  Placing a platter of fresh vegetables and all the other ingredients develops a sense of curiosity and a new canvas to explore their creativity.  NickJr has fun recipes for your kids.  Check it out here.

2. Talk to your pediatrician

Your family pediatrician may help you find the best option.  You can schedule follow-ups and keep track of your child’s growth and improvement.  Their doctor can also tell them the health issues related to childhood obesity.

3. Join First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign

First Lady Michelle Obama is working with communities to stop childhood obesity.  Her Let’s Move Campaign demonstrates what you, as a parent, should do to help your children be active.  Check out ChooseMyPlate.gov for better meal plans.  Join the Let’s Move Meetup, to connect with parents in your community and together raise a healthier generation.

4. Set a good example

Children are very impressionable.  If you make bad food choices and enjoy being a couch potato, chances are your kids will too. Take 30 minutes in your busy schedule to go play with your kids.  Live in a cold climate?  Encourage moves you learned in your aerobic class, like who can jump the highest or play your child’s favorite song and groove to the music!

5. Limit media exposure

This is one of the most important things you can do for your kids.  Media, which includes, TV, video games, and Internet are affecting your child in more ways than you can probably think of.  Here’s a good article called “The Role of Media in Childhood Obesity.”  It lists the media’s influence in obesity for children as young as two.  The time children spend on various media is time away from physical activity.  What can you do to limit your child’s exposure to the media?

Hope this list helps.  What would you do or what have you done to get involved?  With perseverance, we can make a healthier future for our children.  Trust me, they’ll thank you later.

Cartoon Characters: Higher Authority Than Parents?

Do your children drop everything for Dora the Explorer and Shrek, but won’t listen to a word you say? These lovable characters influence the games kids play, the toys they buy, clothing they wear, and even their bed sheets. Where does it stop?

Leaving parents with little influence, these popular characters have even started to shape food choices. In an article by Heath.com, cartoon characters debuted on food items as early as the 90’s with green Ninja Turtle Pudding Pies.

Dr. Thomas Robinson, M.D., a professor of child health at the Stanford University School of Medicine says the use of TV and movie characters on food packaging is “designed to access certain feelings, memories, and associations. If you associate certain products with things that are otherwise considered fun, it’s going to make those products seem more desirable.”

Food and beverage companies spend more than $1.6 billion a year in licensing and cross-promotion efforts to attract kids’ attention. Cartoon characters appear on unhealthy food like chips, cookies and salty crackers. Good news though, they also started to use the same characters on healthy foods. Problem? Health experts believe children will confuse junk food to be nutritious.

According to a study, children develop an emotional connection with name brands as early as three-years-old. Researchers put 40 children to the test. Each child was given two clear plastic bags containing the same foods, but one bag had a sticker of an adored character and the other didn’t. The children claimed the food in the bag with the cartoon character tasted better, the apples were crisper, and the carrots were crunchier. What does this mean?

How can we limit character influence over children’s junk food consumption? Would it be beneficial to ban all cartoon characters on unhealthy snacks? Would you spend the extra dime on character packaging to ensure your child is eating nutritious foods?