Teen obesity has been called an epidemic by some medical experts, and it’s easy to see why. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in five U.S. school-age children (6 – 19 years old) was obese between 2015 and 2016. Since the 1970s, the percentage of obese children has more than tripled. There are many factors that contribute to childhood obesity, including consuming more energy (in the form of beverages and food) than the body expends or requires, issues with metabolism, poor sleep habits and genetics.
Many parents feel ill-equipped to combat the rising tide of obesity, but it’s important to understand you can make a difference. Instead of being overwhelmed by statistics, focus on your own home first. There are many things you can do to encourage your children to make healthy dietary and lifestyle choices that will lower their risk of becoming obese.
Rethink Portion Sizes
Did you know that in the last 20 years, food portions in restaurants across the United States have either doubled or tripled? Bloated portion sizes are now perceived as normal, and many families have increased their portion sizes at home as well. Encouraging your kids to eat too much food can skew their balance of energy in versus energy out, which puts them at a higher risk of becoming obese. It can be hard to change your kids’ perception of the proper serving size, but it’s not impossible. Start by making the following small changes:
- Switch out your large dinner plates with smaller plates (between 9 – 10 inches in diameter).
- Pack healthy, reasonably sized sack lunches for your kids.
- Enjoy snacks and treats in moderation (cut chocolate bars into smaller pieces instead of eating the whole bar).
Eating smarter and controlling portion sizes can go a long way toward combatting obesity in your own home.
Remove Energy-Dense Temptations
You’re much more likely to indulge in unhealthy snacks if they’re right in front of you. Remember the old saying “out of sight, out of mind”? It’s truer than you realize! Remove energy-dense, nutritionally bankrupt foods from your home (and not by eating them all!) so your teen isn’t tempted by them. Replace all the junk food you used to have with fresh fruits and veggies that are chopped, rinsed and ready for snacking.
Make More At-Home Meals
It’s much easier to control the nutrition and calorie content of your food if you make it yourself. Although it’s convenient to order takeout, try to do it only on rare occasions. Instead, focus on making nutritious and delicious food in your own home. Getting teens involved in the process is a great way to teach them how to cook healthy foods. This skill will serve them well throughout their lives.
In today’s busy world, it’s inevitable that you’ll be short on time sometimes and may not have the opportunity to cook meals every day of the week. If your schedule is full and you need to eat out, try to make healthy menu swaps whenever possible. For example, choose a salad as your side dish instead of french fries.
Trade Soft Drinks for Water
Sugary drinks are a major
If you’re not a fan of water or think it’s boring, liven it up by adding slices of fresh fruit or cucumbers to it. You can also make water seem more appealing by pouring it in fancy wine glasses or cute water bottles that your kids can carry around with them throughout the day.
Encourage Physical Activity
If your kids are mainly sedentary when they’re at home, make a change! An important part of staying fit and healthy is regular physical activity. You can make physical activity more fun by doing it as a family or by enrolling your child in a sport he or she likes.
These tips are all pretty easy to implement and can make a huge difference in the lives of your teens. Choose your favorite items from the list or implement them all today and kick teen obesity to the curb.