An epidemic has been spreading among American children for more than 30 years: childhood obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately one in three children are overweight, and 18 percent of all children between ages 6 and 19 are classified as obese. A lack of physical activity is part of the problem, but access to junk food also plays a major role in weight gain.
If your kids are hooked on empty-calorie or sugar-filled foods, there are some ways you can break unhealthy habits and set the foundation for a healthy lifestyle:
Be the Person Who Introduces Junk Food to Your Child, to Win Trust
Trust is an important part of every relationship. If you try to keep junk food from your child, he or she will eventually discover it at a friend’s house, birthday party or special event. If you are the person who introduces junk food to your child, you’ll have his or her ear when in the same breath you teach him or her about the importance of recognizing these foods as a treat rather than the norm.
Stop Buying Junk Food
Kids are more likely to reach for snack foods that are easily accessible. If you have bags of chips, cookies and canned sodas in the house, your child may be more likely to choose them over an orange or some celery. Making healthy food choices is a lot easier for children when they find bite-sized, healthy foods within reach. Encourage good choices by making pre-sliced apples, grapes or other healthy foods easily available to your child.
Don’t Treat Emotions with Food
Many people associate food with emotions. Whether your child is bored, sad or excited, he or she may reach for a bag of chips without a second thought. Teach your child to cope with strong emotions by communicating instead of by resorting to junk food.
Never Use Junk Food as a Bribe
Parents often may bribe their children with sweets or other junk food to encourage good behavior in public or while visiting the doctor. Although food bribes may be effective for reaching short-term goals, they can cause serious consequences later on.
Keep in mind that it is nearly impossible to cut out all sugary and fatty foods in your child’s diet. Try to be reasonable about the way you handle your child’s dietary habits, leaving room for treats from time to time. Whether it’s Halloween or some other occasion, let your child enjoy junk food – in moderation – on certain special days or holidays.
How do you say “no” to junk food? Share your tips to stay healthy in the “Comments” section below.