by Natalie-Jean Schiavone, PhD

Being a kid today is hard, but being a parent today is even harder. Let’s face it, when most parents were growing up, cell phones, computers, and social media did not exist. As children, you may have been more active, ate healthier meals and were more engaged. However, kids today are not as excited to participate in these activities, so how do you expect your child to be present if he/she is always “logged on?”

First let’s define obesity. Obesity is a condition where the body accumulates and stores an excess amount of fat (National Institute of Health [NIH], 2017). Now, let’s see just how many children are affected by obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; 2017), 17% of United States children and adolescents are affected by obesity. That means that one out of every four children is overweight. As a parent, this information is alarming. However, there are some measures one can take to help in the battle against childhood obesity and they can start right in your own home.

Parents are the first role models, teachers and decision makers. They choose what is for dinner, what snacks are in the house for munching and how much physical activity a child gets. While there are many factors that can impact such decisions, parents can make some minor changes in the way they interact with their child and with the food choices as well as the physical activity levels.

Here are some quick tips and suggestions to help you with this lifestyle change:

1. Grocery Shop Together- Make a list and stick to it. Try to incorporate more vegetables (carrots, celery, snap peas, peppers, etc.), fruits (apples, berries, grapes, oranges, etc.), and healthy snacks such as nuts, Greek yogurt, popcorn, applesauce and cheese. Stay clear of soda, juice drinks and energy drinks. Replace sugary drinks with water. If you ever have questions about what a healthy snack looks like, take to the computer. You can get some great ideas from several sites including the following:

2. Prepare the Snacks Together- Make this a bonding experience with your child. Educate them on the benefits of being healthy. Put the snacks in containers that are easy to get to and are readily available to them; just make sure you practice portion control. A good suggestion is the use of “snack” bags. Most grocery stores have them. This will guide you in how much you should be feeding them.

3. Designate a “Technology Free” Time- Pick a time (30, 60, 90 minutes or more) that you and your child will have to “shut down” and get some exercise. Take this opportunity to talk and spend some quality time together. Weather permitting, get outside, the fresh air will do you both some good. Just get moving – together.

While we are all busy, if we make some small changes in our daily living, they will have big changes in our overall health and well-being. So start making some changes today. Remember, YOU are your child’s first teacher and role model. Why not show them the best version of you and start creating some healthy habits that will last a lifetime? Take the first step, your body and your kids will thank you later!

About the Author:
Natalie-Jean Schiavone, PhD, has more than 15 years of experience in the healthcare industry. After receiving her Master’s degree in General Psychology, Natalie-Jean went on to complete her doctoral degree in Health Psychology, with a specialization in obesity. Dr. Schiavone conducted her research and completed her dissertation on female adolescents affected by obesity and their social experiences. Using her education, experience and expertise, Dr. Schiavone works with her patients to create a healthier lifestyle where knowledge is a key factor in this modification.