By Kristen Hicks-Roof PhD, RDN, LDN, CLC and Marissa Schwam
In an unpresented time, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important now more than ever to ensure that our youth are healthy. In the United States, approximately one in six youths aged two – 19 are obese. (Source: CDC) Some risk factors for a child gaining extra weight include increased screen time, increased stress/anxiety, decreased physical activity and poor dietary intake. Children and teenagers who are overweight are more likely to become overweight adults, but what does this mean? This means that it is never too late; now is the time to help children and adolescents learn healthier habits that they can carry into adulthood.
What can you do to promote health in our youth?
- Physical activity: It is recommended that children and adolescents aged six through 17 participate in 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily. Some ways to add in activity are taking a walk as a family, playing an outdoor sport, making an indoor obstacle course, or encouraging any physical activities that they enjoy. Set guidelines to encourage your child to be active to “earn” screen time.
- Follow MyPlate: It is important to provide them with a healthy, balanced diet. Start small and aim to add at least two fruits and vegetables into their daily meals and snacks.
- Structured Mealtimes: Mealtime is a great way to help them form good eating habits at a young age. Having a time frame for major meals and keeping snack time simple and away from TV or other electronics helps them focus on eating and learning to understand their hunger cues.
- Smart Snacking: Keep snacks simple and healthy and try to pair a carbohydrate with a protein. Snacks such as apples/bananas with peanut butter, grapes and nuts, or crackers with cheese are good to try. Homemade smoothies are also a fun snack; try making one with a fruit (berries, bananas, mango, pineapple), a vegetable (spinach, kale, cucumber, avocado), and dairy (yogurt, milk).