Helping Our Families Fight Obesity

Growing up, most everyone I knew was basically healthy and fit. So where did all this obesity come from? It seems like twenty years ago obesity was rarely discussed on the nightly news or written about in popular magazines. It wasn't a part of everyday conversation like it is today. But now we are face to face with a problem that affects more than twenty-five percent of the population. If you have eight people in your family, the odds say two will become obese. How can we as parents beat these odds? Here are a few tips that can help. h3. Cook at Home For us to be good examples to our children, we must educate ourselves first and then practice what we learn. There are many great books and magazines with more healthy recipes than you could ever use. Finding time to cook a good, healthy meal most days of the week should become a priority, regardless of how busy our schedules are. Many parents say their children refuse to eat healthy meals. A big part of the problem is that most kids have grown accustomed to fast food and pre-packaged foods. We can't fill our pantries with Goldfish crackers and fruit snacks and hope our children pass them by in search of celery sticks. h3. Whole Foods Are Best Whole foods are foods that are unprocessed and as close to their natural states as possible. If it has a label, it's probably not a whole food. Whole foods don't contain refined carbohydrates or unhealthy fats. Eating whole foods ensures that you are getting the maximum amount of original natural nutrients, in the right proportions. Whole grains make good changes in the intestines, allowing healthful bacteria to keep disease-producing bacteria in check; they have strong antioxidant properties to help protect the body against free radicals, as well as phytochemicals that break down cancer-causing substances. Whole foods should be a big part of our diets--seventy to eighty percent if possible. Fruit, vegetables, nuts, beans, lean meats, fish, eggs, and whole grains are just a few examples of whole foods. h3. Trans Fats Trans fats, or partially hydrogenated fats, should be avoided, but this is easier said than done. These fats are found in nearly every commercially baked or packaged food because this fat has a long shelf life. Think about it. You can buy a container of Crisco and leave it in the storage room for ten years. When you go back down to get it, it will look exactly like when you left it. Would you eat a piece of ham or a banana that had been in the pantry for ten years? Not a chance. Why are these fats so bad? Trans fats are not easily absorbed by the body. They float around and end up in the blood vessels. They increase your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and weight gain. These fake fats should not be in anyone's diet, yet, some of us knowingly or unknowingly consume large quantities without hesitation. Read labels carefully, especially those on crackers, cookies, fried foods, and baked goods. h3. Not a Spoonful of Sugar High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) came around in the 1970s. Before then, most everything from soda to ketchup was sweetened with sugar. When HFCS became cheaper than sugar, food makers started using it in everything from yogurt to bread to juice. Why is this such a problem? HFCS triggers changes in the body that make you feel hungrier and tell your brain to eat more and store more fat! HFCS increases (often empty) calorie intake and appetite, as well as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. This sugar should be avoided whenever possible. h3. Breakfast Is Still Best You and your children need breakfast. It has likely been at least eight hours since you last meal. Your metabolism has nearly ground to a halt while you were sleeping. Eating breakfast gives your metabolism a wake-up call to get moving again. (Morning exercise and breakfast are a great one-two punch to elevate your metabolism all day long.) Make an effort to eat every few hours throughout the day to keep your metabolism going, and try to eat most of your calories earlier in the day. If you do have a late-night meal, wait a few hours before going to bed. h3. Let Kids Help Each week pull out a few "cooking light" magazines or healthy cook books and have each child pick out a few meals. Make up a schedule and have each child help prepare the meal he or she has chosen. Kids love to help in the kitchen and this is a great way to teach them about preparing healthy meals. (They are going to need to know this later in college, on a mission, with their own families.) Healthy, great-tasting meals add variety and make dinnertime a win-win for everyone. h3. Take the Kids Shopping with You As a mother of four small children, I know this can be hard, but work with me here. You don't have to take all of them every time. Alternate who goes with you and make it fun. Try to go grocery shopping when you are not rushed and can spend time answering questions. Pick out some nice ripe tomatoes. Look at all the varieties of apples and lettuce. If your child finds a new variety that looks appealing, take one home and cut it up for them to eat. They might find a new favorite. h3. Make Mealtime a Family Event Mealtime can be a great family activity. There is so much to do--dinner to make, a table to set, and dishes to clean. Make it a habit to have everyone help by using a rotating chart or assignments. Most importantly, make sure the meal is savored and enjoyed. Talk about the day's events or future plans. By the way, candles and china aren't just for Valentines Day. Pull them out once in a while to show your family how special they are. h3. One Dinner a Night It's hard enough to make one dinner each night. Don't complicate things by making a different meal for everyone. Make something that includes a family favorite as well as something new. If the kids don't eat your new creation that night, don't worry. Eventually they'll surprise you and taste it. If you're lucky, they'll even swallow it. h3. Kids Don't Need Dino Nuggets Millions of dollars are spent every year advertising French fries, sugar-filled drinks, and other highly processed foods. They are full of food coloring, trans fats, chemicals, and additives. None of these will make for healthy kids. It can be nearly impossible to keep processed foods out of your children's lives, but you can keep them out of your freezer, refrigerator, and pantry. h3. Our Bodies Need to Move There are many things our kids can do to get their bodies moving. Contact your local community center to get a list of ongoing activities such as gymnastics, soccer, or dance. Many of these activities are inexpensive and well worth the investment. When the weather warms up, turn off the TV and dust off the bikes. Regardless of the activity, make it a top priority to include exercise in your kids' daily routines. After sitting in school all day, kids have a lot of energy they need to use. Shoot hoops, go to the park, or just let them run around in the backyard. Our family tries to take a hike every Saturday in the summer. We pack up the kids, water bottles, and snacks and pick a trail. We are always amazed at how far our four-year-old can go. When she needs a break, we take turns carrying her. This is good for us too! We love finding new places, new waterfalls, and new picnic spots. Keeping our families healthy is our responsibility. Time can be tight, and fitting new things into our already busy schedules can be hard, but changes can be made. Go ahead, turn off the TV and take your kids for a walk. They'll love you for it now and for years to come. *********************** Great Reads _The Culprit and the Cure_ by Steve Aldana _Eating Well for Optimum Health_ by Andrew Weil _The Healthy Kitchen_ by Andrew Weil and Rosie Daley _Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone_ by Deborah Madison
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