We live in a time where for the first time, parents are expected to have a longer life span than their children, childhood obesity is at an alarming high, and violence is the norm. Typically adult diseases (Type-2 diabetes) are now appearing in children. Why are these things happening? What has changed in the last forty years to cause these drastic changes? How do we reverse these daunting trends?
Many elements of our everyday lives have changed, and not for the better. The term ‘healthy diet’ has become a bad word. Exercise and physical activity have been replaced with sedentary activities like video games and computers. And many children are exposed to violence as an everyday part of their lives. The high cost of living has forced parents, especially single parents, to take on multiple jobs just to survive. Children are forced to assume responsibility for their own activities and diets. And, not surprisingly, the children are not making the best of choices.
So what do we do to save our children and preserve their quality of life?
1. Bring back the healthy diet. It had to be said. Nutritional meals are the mainstay of healthy bodies. Your body cannot function without proper nutrition. How can you expect your children’s bodies to thrive and grow without the required nutrients? The answer is they can’t.
So repeat after me, “NO MORE FAST FOOD!” If you love your children, do not feed them fast food for a meal. Maybe you do not realize it, but even children suffer adverse affects from a fast food meal, and especially from a diet heavy in fast foods. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity are just a few of the benefits of this diet.
Instead, feed your children a meal with a high concentration of vegetables and whole grains. It only takes 30 minutes to prepare a healthy meal. Finding the time is difficult with an extremely busy schedule. But shouldn’t your children’s health be a priority. Aren’t they worth it? Aren’t you worth it? You are teaching your child eating habits they will carry into adulthood. Teach them how to eat healthy, not fast.
You cannot address the issue of a healthy diet without addressing portion sizes. You may not realize this, but the portion sizes being served as individual meals at restaurants are the size of a family meal from 40 to 50 years ago. Are you still wondering why obesity is a problem? A single serving of meat for one individual should be the same size as a deck of cards (8ozs). Vegetables should take up half the plate. And a quarter of the plate should contain a serving of whole grains, such as brown rice.
A healthy diet is essential to a healthy body and a long healthy life. Eating healthy prevents obesity, chronic health conditions (diabetes), and provides energy for (gasp!) physical activity. Healthy meals should be a priority in every household. Healthy snacks should be the rule. Children (and adults) do not need cookies and candies to promote happiness and satisfy hunger. Healthy snacks can provide the same satisfaction with much better results.
You do not need to eat or serve junk make everyone happy. Sliced apples with a low fat caramel dip or peanut butter that is melted in the microwave for 20 to 30 seconds is a delicious and healthy snack. Raw, cut vegetables with a low fat dip or dressing is great too. Just think how much better you will feel after ensuring your family has all the nutrients they need.
2. Physical activity/exercise is a must! Everybody needs at least 30 minutes of exercise everyday. Children require at least 60 minutes of physical activity everyday to be healthy. And no, playing the Nintendo Wii doesn’t count as physical activity. Even if you must suffer the wails of indignation, make your children go outside and play. If you make physical activity a part of their daily routine, eventually the complaints of “I’m bored” or “There is nothing to do outside” will subside.
Forcing your children to play outside is not child abuse, no matter what your children say to you. Allowing them to sit in front of a television or computer screen for hours on end should be considered as such. If your child needs medicine do you give in to their cries of refusal and allow them to go without? Probably not. You should look at physical activity in the same manner. Limit the amount of time allotted to sedentary activities. One hour of video games/computer time and television only after eight will force your child to have fun in other, healthier ways!
Your children need physical activity to be healthy. Make your children stay outside until it becomes dark. Unless the weather conditions are frigid or wet, your children should be outside playing. Don’t you remember the days before the development of portable game systems, home computers, and VCRs? Do you recall all of the great memories you have of imaginative play outside? Physical activity will stimulate their imaginations (minds) as well as their bodies.
3. Violence should not be an accepted staple in a child’s life. Children should not be exposed to violence on any semblance of regular basis. Violence should not be permitted. Studies have proven repeatedly that children exposed to violence on television and on video games escalate to violence quicker and accept violence as a solution more readily. Even at play, the effect of violence is evident.
There are many tools right at your fingertips to help you eliminate violent images in your household. Cable television provides parental controls. You can block everything with a rating above what you find acceptable for your child. Everything will be blocked (television programs, game shows, reality TV, and movies) that are unacceptable. Your child cannot miss what they are never exposed to, so eliminate the harmful images before they have the chance to affect them.
Video games are printed with ratings now, too. The ratings are posted for a reason. Use them as a gage to determine whether the game is appropriate for your child. The ratings were developed to help limit the exposure of unsuitable images. Experts believe the rating system is effective. Even if you have your doubts concerning the effectiveness, what would it hurt to prevent your child from playing a game that could be potentially harmful or influential in a harmful way?
Perhaps some parents believe that no harm can come from this type of entertainment. But what you consider entertainment the military considers a training tool. The military uses similar technology to teach men and women to become soldiers, ready to kill when necessary. Is this the mentality you want instilled in your child? And don’t forget, the terrorists learned to fly an airplane from a ‘video game’.
Your children bring meaning, substance, and joy to your life. You want to have a lifetime to share with them. Children learn what they live. If you treasure your children and the quality of life they will have, you will need to implement and instill healthy life choices. The alternative is scary; a lifetime of medication to treat chronic conditions, obesity leading to painful social rejection, inability to participate in fun physical activities due to poor physical conditioning, and the inability to resolve conflict without violence (leading to potential legal problems). If you consider the alternative, this really isn’t a choice, is there?