Childhood obesity has become an epidemic in the United States. Today over nine million children over the age of six are considered obese. Childhood obesity is caused by many different factors including environmental, social and genetic. This article will discuss each of these causes and what you can do as a parent to prevent obesity in your children.
The environment in which your child lives could contribute to childhood obesity. Today many streets, towns and suburbs are designed to discourage walking and other physical activities. Only about 1 child out of every 5 in the US will participate in some form of extra-curricular physical activity outside of school.
The slowing down of the US economy and the rise in gas prices is forcing families to cut expenses. One expense that more and more families are cutting back on is their grocery bill. They are purchasing more convenience foods that are high in fat and have very little nutritional value. These foods are usually easy to prepare or require no preparation at all. The economic slowdown is also effecting the cost of produce. This is also effecting American families as they are not able to afford these nutritious foods anymore. Instead they are turning to canned and processed foods.
Some school districts in the United States are facing severe budget cuts. These districts are forced to cut back their physical education programs and after school sports. This is resulting in fewer opportunities for children to participate in physical activities.
Leisure time that was once spent outdoors playing today is replaced with video games, DVDs, and over 100 channels on the television. With a culture that embraces Hannah Montana, and Sesame Street our children are encouraged to watch their favorite television show instead of meeting friends at a local park for a ball game after school.
As a parent and US consumer what can you do to reverse this trend? You can begin by taking a close look at your family’s budget. Being able to afford the healthy and nutritious fruits and vegetables for your children should be a priority. Ask yourself these questions. What expenses can you cut? Do you really need those extra 100 channels on your television? Or would it be more beneficial to your family’s health if you went back to “rabbit ears?” Do you need two vehicles? Could you trade one in for a hybrid or a vehicle with a lower monthly payment? Sit down with your spouse and go over all of your expenses. Whatever you are able to cut should be added to your grocery bill. Including fresh fruits and vegetables in your children’s diet is very important in the prevention of childhood obesity.
Encourage physical activity at home and throughout your neighborhood. Let other families in your neighborhood know that for example, on Fridays after school the kids are going to play baseball at the park. Make sure every kid in the neighborhood is invited. Set some rules in your own home. Tell your children that if they don’t spend at least an hour outside riding their bike, or playing a sport or some other physical activity they can not watch their favorite television show or play their favorite video game.
If your school district is facing budget cuts and the possibility of cutting back on after school sports or their physical education program go to the next school board meeting. Speak up at the meeting and tell them that you oppose the idea of such cut backs. Get signatures from other parents who feel the same way. If you speak up the school board might find a way to keep those programs and cut something else instead.
Always show a good example. Make sure you are eating the right foods and exercising regularly. A child that is used to seeing his or her parent sit on the couch all day is going to do the same thing. If you eat convenience foods and McDonald’s all the time your child is going to think that is okay as well. Clean out your pantry and get throw out all your junk food. If you are not exercising on a regular basis join your local YMCA or health and fitness club. Ending this epidemic needs to start in every household in America.