Getting Kids & Teens Healthier

by Erica on September 2, 2013

My favorite personal trainer, Megan Weinburgh, returned to Catch Good Health Radio two weeks ago.  Megan walks the walk- after two pregnancies, one of which with twins, she found herself 70 lbs overweight.  Through her journey to good health, she lost the 70 lbs and became a personal trainer. As Megan says herself, “You don’t want to hire Suzee Size Zero as your personal trainer. You want Suzee Stretch Marks.”

On our most recent CGH Radio Show, we discussed the current state of our kids’ and teens’ health, and offered tips to parents and guardians on how to get kids to eat better and exercise more.

Megan & her lovely family! Megan & her lovely family!

Unfortunately, a recent CDC report estimated one out of every eight preschoolers in America are obese. This is among all ethnicities. If you break it down further, one in five African American preschoolers, and one in six Hispanic preschoolers are obese. Please keep in mind this doesn’t even include preschoolers who are overweight– the stats only include those that are identified as obese.

The report also identified that “children who are overweight or obese as preschoolers are five times more likely to be overweight or obese as adults.” Sadly, if an adult was obese as a child, their obesity as an adult tends to be more severe. And, obese adults have higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and some cancers.

Megan and I talked about how no one wants their children to have poor health now, or as an adult. Yet, so many children and teens are unhealthy. What gives?

To summarize it simply- our culture is not conducive to a healthy society. We’re working more and more hours, with more and more demands, both at work and home. Many of us are unfamiliar with nutrition, some of us don’t know how to cook, and most of us have limited time and money. In most parts of the U.S., and especially in inner cities, healthy foods are harder to find. Megan and I totally get that.

The good news is that there are very simple, inexpensive, healthy things you can do with your own family to turn this around.

First, kick sugary drinks to the curb. Per an article on CNN, “the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that young children avoid all sugar-sweetened beverages.” This includes sodas and most juices. Many of us are giving our kiddos juices that we think are healthy, when in reality they are not.

An easy fix? Megan fills a pitcher with water, and she and her sons put slices of fruits and veggies in it. Some days they put berries in the water, other days it’s cucumbers, etc. They get creative. You can do this with your kids’ water bottles too.

Another easy fix?  Get a juicer, and make real fruit and vegetable juices with your kids.  Trust me, kids love to watch fruit and veggies being juiced.  And they are far more likely to try it if they made it themselves.  If you don’t know how to juice, I’m offering a new Catch Good Health Webinar, Juicing 101.  (For more info, click here: www.CatchGoodHealth.com/Juicing101.)  

If you’ve got kiddos who “don’t like veggies,” I’m not surprised. With all the salt and sugar added to manufactured foods, it’s not shocking that they gravitate towards them instead of real, healthy foods. That’s how manufactured foods are designed.

Megan having some fun with her girlfriends Make exercise fun!  Here’s Megan goofing off, as usual  😉

If you want your kids to be healthier, you need to be healthier too. Megan talked about the importance of parents modeling healthy behaviors. If your kiddos need to be eating more fruits and veggies, it’s very important that you do the same. If you’re not a big fan of fruits and veggies yourself, keep in mind that your taste buds will change the less you eat high sodium and high sugar processed foods. They really will. You’ll begin to find yourself enjoying veggies, and you’ll also begin to notice a shift in your enjoyment of processed foods. Their appeal will dwindle the more you eat real food, and you’ll begin to feel better. This process tends to take between one to three months. Stick with it.

Once you’re upping your consumption of fresh fruits and veggies, Megan recommends requiring your kiddos to try one new veggie a day. Do this with them too! Megan uses her kids’ age for this- the number of bites they have to take matches their age. If you’ve got an eight year old, they need to take at least eight bites.

Megan also stressed the importance of being consistent! You’ve got to be consistent, and you have to outlast any games your kiddos may play at the dinner table. Stay calm, and remain consistent. No yelling or arguments- after all, there’s nothing to argue about. They have to try one veggie every day, and the number of bites need to at least match their age. Outlast them.

That being said- be flexible with your expectations. Megan shared that her son was only willing to eat one kind of fruit, all week. Clearly, a variety would be better for him, but he was following the established rules, and if he wanted to spend an entire week eating bananas, so be it. After a few days of it, he grew tired of it himself, and switched to something else. You’ve got to pick your battles, and focus on the goal- long term health.

Another tip Megan and I talked about was getting more buy in from your family by growing your own fruits and veggies yourself. It could be a small container garden, or a larger garden in your yard. Either way, your kids and teens will enjoy watching their food grow. More buy in equals more excitement and commitment.

We also discussed taking your kids food shopping with you. Ask for their input with meal planning, and have them find the items on your shopping list. If they can’t go food shopping with you, or you need a breather and would prefer not to take them, have them window shop online. Megan has her sons go online, especially during the school year, and pick out fruits and veggies they would like to have for the upcoming week. Sometimes this just consists of them googling images of fruits and veggies. Megan buys the ones the kids pick out, along with whatever else she needs.

In addition to improving your family’s nutrition, you’ve got to get moving too. Fortunately, you don’t need fancy equipment, lots of money, or gym memberships to do it either.

574781_10200807588700402_2078114425_n Winter play time!

Megan allows her kids to watch one show at night, but only after they get their homework done, and after they get exercise. Her sons play outside as much as possible, in addition to participating in organized athletics. A key is that she and her husband play with them. Sometimes they throw a ball around a yard, other times they kick it around. They even fill Ziplocs with sand and throw them around. Please know you do not need to be an athlete to do this. And, your kids will have memories of you playing with them throughout their lifetime.

If you’re in good physical shape already, have a family pushup contest, or a burpee contest. (If you don’t know what a burpee is…lucky you!) If you aren’t too fit, start by walking around your house once. Or, walk down your street and back, or go to a park. This includes your kids. Go for family walks, and increase the distance as your conditioning improves.

While you’re working on your family’s nutrition and physical activity, something else happens too. Your family’s strength and happiness improves. You’ll be spending more time with your kids, and you’ll become more engaged in each other’s lives. They’ll grow up knowing how much you love them. Change is hard, but the benefits of these changes greatly outweighs any arguments or fits at the table you may experience. Stay focused on your goal- a healthier and happier family. And, enjoy the journey along the way. ☺

For more information, please check out our CGH Radio Show:

Sources:
http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2013/08/06/signs-of-progress-in-childhood-obesity-fight/
http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/basics.html
http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2013/08/05/study-kids-who-drink-soda-sugary-juice-weigh-more/

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