Healthy lifestyle begins during childhood
In a country facing an obesity epidemic, more and more research is being conducted to determine the causes of this serious health problem. The latest research from Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab has found that a high body mass index (BMI) in adult life can be linked to certain factors in childhood.
Key behaviors of a child’s family were found to predict a high BMI in adulthood. These included parents restricting kids’ food intake, kids being bullied by peers, parents and/or grandparents being obese, food being used as a reward or punishment and kids drinking more juice and soda than water.
For adults with a low BMI, these behaviors were not displayed. Instead, they were more likely to experience families using fresh ingredients for meals, parents talking to children about nutrition, kids getting enough sleep on weeknights, families performing outdoor physical activities together and someone packing a lunch for kids when they went to school.
“The more behaviors, habits and circumstances we can identify as being detrimental to health, the more preventive counseling we can engage in when a child is young and his or her lifelong habits are taking root,” says Dr. Kerry Sheehan, pediatrician at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill.
While some parents may not know where to start when it comes to making changes for a healthy lifestyle, small steps can make a big difference for their kids.
Dr. Sheehan recommends these quick and easy steps to get kids on the road to a healthy life:
- Pack a healthy lunch at home two days a week rather than buying it from the school cafeteria every day.
- If kids are not getting enough sleep, Dr. Sheehan says to challenge them to get 15-20 minutes more a night. In just one week this can add up to an extra two hours of sleep!
- To help kids manage portions they are eating, read the nutrition labels and divide the bag into the number of servings listed on the bag.
- Allow kids to eat a full plate of dinner but make sure they drink a glass of water before they have seconds. This will give their brains time to decide if they are still hungry.
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