According to the American Psychological Association, children see an average of 40,000 commercials each year that are for unhealthy foods, prompting them to want more of those items when they see them in the stores. On average, 33 percent of children and 41 percent of adolescents consume fast food on any given day. There is a problem with the state of children’s health today. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that childhood obesity has doubled in the last 30 years, with a third of all children and adolescents now considered overweight or obese.
Dr. Nimali Fernando, a pediatrician who founded The Doctor Yum Project – a nonprofit organization to help parents and children learn to eat healthier and strive for a healthier lifestyle, says that obesity is only the tip of the iceberg. The other 70 percent of children, many who may be of normal body weight, also suffer from diet-related illnesses, such as chronic constipation, gastroesophageal reflux, anxiety, and difficulties with attention and concentration. Many of these symptoms are directly related to the diet.
Dr. Fernando offers these tips for creating a culture of wellness.
- Cook together. So many families find cooking to be a chore at the end of the day. Involve the whole family in meal preparation and use that time to connect with your children. Show kids that spending time preparing fresh foods together is a way to take care their bodies. If kids learn to cook from a young age, it gives them confidence and skills essential for leading a healthy life.
- Play together. Find physical activities that you enjoy and do these as a family. Revive traditions and build healthy habits by incorporating fun activities like a walk every Sunday after church or a family bike ride after lunch at Grandma’s house.
- Be a role model. Kids can learn healthy habits most effectively if their parents model that same behavior. This doesn’t mean parents have to be perfect, but showing that you are working on being healthier can inspire kids to do the same.
- Get everyone involved. When a family makes a commitment to be healthy, get everyone to buy in. Draft a family mission statement and include a line about how your family strives to be healthy. Encourage everyone to sign it. Include extended family in your culture of wellness too.
- Connect with others. Families are most successful in sustaining healthy habits if they have connections with others who are doing the same. Cook healthy potlucks with family friends, talk to your children’s schools about creating wellness initiatives, and form a walking group with co-workers. Support from peers serves as powerful fuel for your family’s positive health changes.
“At first it may seem like work to make the transition to a healthier lifestyle,” added Dr. Fernando. “But after a while it will all become second nature and will help solidify great habits in your kids.”
About The Doctor Yum Project – The mission of the organization is to raise awareness about the benefits of feeding children healthy foods and encouraging a healthy lifestyle, thereby reducing childhood obesity and diet-related illnesses. Their programs include kids cooking classes, a cooking club, a preschool nutrition program, and more. For more information on The Doctor Yum Project, visit the website at: www.doctoryum.com