Diet and Exercise

Healthy After School Snacks

  • Snack Kebabs:  Cut raw vegetables or fruit into chunks and place on a wooden skewer.  Be creative and make patterns!  To prevent discoloration, dip apples, bananas, or pears in orange juice after they have been cut.
  • Veggies with Dip:  Cut celery, zucchini, cucumbers or carrots into sticks or coins.  Dip them into salsa or low fat dip.
  • Banana Pops:  Peel a banana.  Dip it in yogurt, then roll in crushed breakfast cereal and freeze
  • Sandwich Cut-Outs:  Using cookie cutters with fun shapes, cut slices of cheese, meat, and whole-grain bread.   Put them together to make fun sandwiches.
  • Ants on a Log:  Fill celery with peanut butter or cream cheese.  Arrange raisins along the top.
  • Ice Cream-Wiches:  Put a small scoop of ice cream or frozen yogurt between two oatmeal cookies or graham crackers.  Make a batch of these sandwiches and freeze them.
  • Peanut Butter Balls:  Mix peanut butter and bran or corn flakes in a bowl.  Shape them into balls then roll them in crushed graham crackers.
  • Smoothie: In a blender mix an   8oz berry yogurt (the berrier, the better)  ¼ cup orange juice, 1 bananas, 6 frozen strawberries.  If your strawberries aren’t frozen, then you need to add ice cubes to thicken the mix).

Lunch Box Makeovers

  • Include a fruit!!!
  • Include a vegetable!!!
  • Use whole grain bread instead of white.
  • Limit cookies, cakes, and other sweet baked goods.
  • Skip the chips (don’t get caught in the convenience trap).
  • Pack pretzels, Cheerios, bread sticks, or low fat crackers.
  • Pack 100% juice.
  • Pack lunch the night before school, when you have a little more time   plan on what to pack.
  • Be creative! Mix foods, cut foods differently, have a theme (Wacky Wed.), add new foods, (exotic fruits…)
  • Grocery shop with your child, and decide on nutritional items for the lunch box together.
  • Watch out for foods advertised as “health foods” that may not be so healthy; examples are yogurt high in sugar, granola bars loaded with chips.

Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity in the United States has grown considerably in recent years.  Between 16 and 33% of children and adolescents are obese.  It is among one of the easiest medical conditions to recognize, but one of the most difficult to treat.

Obesity occurs when a person eats more calories than the body burns up.  A few extra pounds do not suggest obesity, but they may indicate a tendency to gain weight easily.  Generally a child is not considered obese until the weight is at least 10% higher than what is medically recommended for the height and body type.  Obesity commonly begins in childhood between the ages of 5 and 6, and during adolescence.

Many different factors can play a role in childhood obesity.  Our society has become very sedentary.  Television, computer and video games contribute to a lack of physical activity.  Many adolescents watch more than 2 hours of television each day.  Fast food restaurants and “on-the-go type foods “ are high in fats, carbohydrates, and calories.  Medical conditions such as thyroid disease, medications such as steroids and some psychiatric medications, and stressful events such as divorce, moving, and deaths can play a major role in overeating.

Doctors and other health care professionals are the best people to determine whether your child’s weight is unhealthy.  They also can rule out medical problems as the cause.  Health professionals often use growth charts and body mass index to assess whether a child or adolescent is overweight.  The physician will also consider your child’s age and growth patterns to determine whether his or her weight is healthy.

Risk factors for heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes occur with increased frequency in overweight children.  The most immediate consequence of obesity as perceived by the children themselves is social discrimination.  This is associated with poor self-esteem and depression.

Let your child know he or she is loved and appreciated whatever his or her weight.  An overweight child probably knows better than anyone else that her or she has a weight problem.  Overweight children need support, acceptance, and encouragement from their parents.

The following are suggestions for physical activity and healthy eating:

  • Plan family activities that provide everyone with exercise and enjoyment.
  • Encourage swimming, biking, skating, ball sports, walking, track, and other activities
  • Reduce the amount of time spent watching television and playing video games.
  • Encourage your child to only eat when hungry and to eat slowly.
  • Eat meals together as a family as often as possible.
  • Cut down on the amount of fat and calories in your family’s diet.
  • Don’t place your child on a restrictive diet.
  • Avoid the use of food as a reward and avoid withholding food as a punishment.
  • Encourage water intake and limit the intake of beverages with added sugars, such as soft drinks, fruit juice drinks, and sports drinks.
  • Plan for healthy snacks.  Stock the refrigerator with low calorie drinks, fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Discourage eating meals or snacks while watching television.
  • Encourage eating a healthy breakfast every day.

Your child’s diet should be safe and nutritious.  Any weight management program should be supervised by a physician.  Always check with your child’s physician before beginning a weight management or exercise program.