MILWAUKEE, Wisc. – With the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity and other health problems, it’s important that parents encourage and teach kids about nutritious food options and physical activity. The National PTA’s (Parent Teacher Association) Healthy Lifestyles Month this November is an opportunity to use creative events and activities to show that living healthfully can be fun. TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, provides advice to promote wellness at home and get involved with the PTA Healthy Lifestyles initiative.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children and adolescents should participate in 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Today, there are more video games, less homemade meals, and a reduction of physical education and sports programs at school – trends that have contributed to a growing problem of decreased physical activity among children. One in three children and adolescents are overweight or obese, and according to the American Diabetes Association, one in every 400 children has diabetes.
Although there has been an increase in childhood obesity, there has also been a rise in initiatives to temper this trend. Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, a program that TOPS supports, is one such plan that ties into the goals and message of Healthy Lifestyles Month.
It’s important to develop healthy habits at home, so children can go to school, friends’ houses, and other places, ready to make sensible, healthy choices.
1. Physical activity – Get moving as a family and demonstrate to kids the necessity of exercise, which can also boost self-esteem and confidence and reduce stress.
- Take a group walk or bike ride around the neighborhood after dinner.
- Find free or low-cost physical activity areas in your community, such as a playground, bike trail, tennis court, or park.
- Take on active chores as a family, like raking leaves or shoveling snow.
- Use pedometers and have a contest to see who takes the most steps in a given week.
- Go to the gym as a family. Many fitness centers offer discounted memberships.
2. Nutrition – While parents typically decide what their children eat, kids will often eat what is available to them. Surround kids with healthy snacks and homemade meals to ensure that they’re making good choices.
- Serve fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables. Consider more unique snack ideas like homemade smoothies, a fruit salad, or vegetables and hummus dip.
- Offer water, fat-free milk, or 100 percent fruit juice with no sugar added.
- Since nuts and trail mix are often high in calories, serve them in small portions along with another healthy snack.
- Don’t force kids to clean their plates if they are full.
3. Grocery shopping – Before going to the store, make a list of groceries your family needs. Explain to the kids that you will only buy what’s on the list to avoid unhealthy options slipping into the cart. When making your way through the store, focus on the perimeters. These areas contain healthier options, such as produce and dairy. Also, never shop with an empty stomach, so you aren’t vulnerable to buying extra foods.
There are numerous ways to become engaged at your child’s school. Joining your local PTA can help you and other parents impact what’s served at lunch, emphasize the importance of physical activity during the school day, and plan activities to promote health and wellness. Here are some PTA program and activity ideas that will keep families moving and promote wellness:
- Create a document for parents about physical activity areas and resources within the community.
- Host a fundraiser for new fitness equipment. Skip the candy bars and cookies and sell services, magazines, candles, cookbooks, or other alternatives to sweets.
- Plan a 5K run/walk or walk-a-thon event for the school district and encourage families to participate.
- Hang up posters and other educational materials in the cafeteria to make students aware of the importance of a nutritious meal.
- Hold a seminar for parents with a health and wellness expert.
- Organize a healthy Family Fun Night with nutritious snacks, games in the gymnasium, such as basketball or kick ball, a dance, food trivia, and more.
It’s also important to find out if your local school district has a wellness policy. This should include nutrition education goals, physical activity objectives, guidelines for food available at school, opportunities for parents and students to get involved with the policy development, and plans for evaluation. The best place to begin inquiring about a school wellness policy is at the district office.
TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) is the original weight-loss support and wellness education organization. Founded more than 63 years ago, TOPS is the only nonprofit, noncommercial weight-loss organization of its kind. TOPS promotes successful weight management with a “Real People. Real Weight Loss.” philosophy that combines support from others at weekly chapter meetings, healthy eating, regular exercise, and wellness information. TOPS has about 170,000 members – male and female, age seven and older – in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada.
Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. Membership is affordable at just $26 per year, plus nominal chapter fees. To find a local chapter, view www.tops.org or call 1-800-932-8677.
Connect with NJTODAY.NET
Join NJTODAY.NET's free Email List to receive occasional updates delivered right to your email address!