New research identifies several causes of the growing epidemic of childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes in children. Among them are:
- A lack of physical activity
- Large portion sizes
- An increased intake of sugary drinks.
According to researchers, a "common sense approach" to prevention and treatment of childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes needs to focus on both the home and school environment.
Some suggested steps include setting aside time for healthy meals and physical activity at home, eliminating unhealthy foods such as soft drinks and candy from school vending machines, and possible health taxes on fast food and soda pop.
Here are some tips from the Midwest Dairy Council to help your child make the grade when it comes to dietary choices:
- Plan your menu. If your child eats in the school cafeteria, ask him or her to bring home the school lunch menu so that you and your child can decide in advance on the meal selections.
- Provide healthy meals at home. When you have the option to choose foods for your children, make the extra effort to make sure they're healthy and low in carbohydrates and sugar. It's also important to offer appropriately sized servings.
- Avoid the vending machine. Encourage your child to grab a single-serve carton of nonfat or low-fat milk in the school lunch line or fresh vegetables and fruit from the salad bar, instead of candy or soda from a machine.
- Take a field trip to the supermarket. Get your kids involved in selecting healthful foods, including fruits, vegetables, nonfat or low-fat dairy foods, and whole grains and ask them to help with the shopping. They'll be more excited about eating healthful foods if they helped pick them out.
- Set an example. The single-most important thing parents can do to encourage their children to eat healthy is to eat healthy themselves.
Every day, millions of parents struggle to get their kids to eat better. With childhood obesity on the rise, the importance of eating healthfully cannot be understated. And for youngsters with diabetes -- whose numbers are growing -- it's even more crucial.
One way to encourage better eating is to involve children in cooking and meal preparation. Most importantly, working together in the kitchen is an opportunity to informally teach your children about good food.
Involving children in food preparation gives them ownership in what they are fixing and encourages them not only to try new foods, but to understand the importance and benefits of health-giving foods.
For finicky eaters, introduce a new food three or four more times, and ask the child to take just a bite. Don't make an issue or ultimatum about the new food, just keep offering it, and ask the child to try just one bite.