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Get the Family Healthy in 2014, Part 2 of 2

Last week, I discussed three New Year’s resolutions to help get your family healthier in 2014. Here are some more ideas. Like I said in last week’s post, adopt as many of these as you think are realistic for your family. Or pick one change to implement each month as the year goes on. By summer, you will see some real changes!

More Fixes for Healthy Family Eating:

1. Eliminate sugary beverages, including juice. This change is pretty simple and can have a huge impact. Sugary beverages are problematic because it’s easy to quickly consume a lot of calories without feeling full. Juice and sports drinks are not ideal drink choices either, as they are just as calorie-dense as other sugary beverages like soda. It is better to get the vitamin C and electrolytes from healthy food choices. Kids rarely need sports drinks to replace electrolytes during or after physical activity unless they are involved in multiple hours of continuous physical activity and are sweating a lot. Chocolate milk is also considered a sugary beverage, and should be replaced with plain milk. If you are wondering how much sugar is in some of your family’s favorite drinks, measure out one teaspoon of table sugar for every 4 grams of sugar in the “Total Sugar” content on the Nutrition Facts Label. Be sure to look at what the serving size is and how many servings your family member is consuming. I have done this experiment with many families, and they are always shocked since no one (not even the kids) would consider drinking that heap of table sugar.

2. Do something active for at least 60 minutes, every day. Encourage your child to be active by having plenty of outlets for physical activity all year round. For days the weather is not conducive for outdoor play, have a bin filled with things like jump ropes, hula hoops, balls, and other toys. Encourage your child to participate in sports or other hobbies that involve physical activity. Be a good example. Find ways to be physically active as a family, such as walking places within a mile or so instead of driving. This is possible even in cold winter months as long as you dress warmly. If your child is resistant to doing fun physical activities, then offer another option— house chores.

3. Limit screen time to less than 2 hours per day. When you think about how many hours your child spends sitting at school, then how many hours they spend sitting doing homework, then how many hours they spend sitting watching TV or playing on the computer—it adds up to a pretty sedentary lifestyle. This is one of the biggest implications of childhood obesity in our culture today. We have transitioned from a society that relied on physical labor to complete daily tasks, to a society that relies on convenience. Kids used to play outdoor games and sports for fun, and now they play video games. I have had some school-age kids tell me that they just don’t know how to play. Set boundaries around screen time. One idea is to have the kids earn screen time by doing 60+ minutes of physical activity and completing homework.

Any of these New Year’s resolutions will make a healthy impact on your family, especially if the whole family is on-board and participating together. The resolutions described are all simple changes, but can be challenging to implement and sustain without commitment. For more personalized planning and troubleshooting, make an appointment with a registered dietitian at North Shore Pediatric Therapy.

Click here if you missed part 1 of this series, Get Your Family Healthy in 2014.

A Healthy Start to 2012: Featuring Expertise from a Pediatric Physical Therapist

With a new year just around the corner, many people are likely reflecting on the past year and thinking ahead to goals and resolutions for the next. One important topic to consider is physical health. What better time to begin a fresh fitness regime for the whole family than the start of a new year?boy eating hamburger

Childhood Weight Statistics:

The rate of obesity has tripled in adolescents in the United States over the last 20 years. 16-25% of children 6 to 19 years of age in the United States are overweight, and 7-19% are obese. Rates are even higher in economically disadvantaged ethnic minority groups. Furthermore, between 70-80% of obese adolescents will become obese adults. Many families have expressed concerns about their children’s weight and physical health and have asked about ways to address these issues. Lucky for them, North Shore Pediatric Therapy is a multidisciplinary team in which therapists from various fields collaborate to provide holistic services for children. To delve deeper into the topic of how to ensure and maintain a healthy lifestyle, I consulted Jesse Coffelt, PT, DPT, of our pediatric physical therapists.

How do you talk to your children about your concerns about their weight in a straightforward, yet sensitive manner?

“Be sensitive, but be an adult.” Jesse suggests a balance between talking to children about their weight and physical fitness in a gentle way, while acting as the head of the household through concrete decision making. One way Jesse suggests talking to children is to check in with them about their perspectives. For example, if your children used to play sports at school but no longer seem to enjoy them, you can say, “I notice you don’t run around as much with your friends as you used to. Why is that?” Jesse explains that most children will answer that they cannot keep up. This, then, is a great entry point to talk to your children about their fitness goals (ex. “Would you like to be able to play on the soccer team this spring?”) and how to get there (ex. “To play on the soccer team, we will have to make some changes so that you feel more confident and prepared. I know you can do it!”).

As a therapist specializing in mental health, I would also suggest anticipating your children’s reactions. All children are different and receive constructive feedback in various ways. If you know that your children will have a challenging time with specific language (ex. “I notice that you’ve gained a few pounds”), think of ways to help your children respond positively so that they will actively participate in a new fitness regime!

How do you know there is an obesity/weight issue?

“The best method to determine whether your children’s height, weight, and body fat are in a healthy range is to calculate their Body Mass Index (BMI). Check out these 2 helpful websites (http://www.bcm.edu/cnrc/bodycomp/bmiz2.html) ( http://kidshealth.org/parent/growth/growth/bmi_charts.html?tracking=P_RelatedArticle)  BMI calculators and additional information. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention defined overweight as between the 85th to 95th percentile of BMI for age and obese as at or above the 95th percentile of BMI for age.”

 How do you implement a family fitness regime?

  • “Avoid extremes.” Jesse suggests that one simple, yet effective way to implement a new health regime is to reassess the family diet. Cutting out sugary juices and soda in place for water, for example, is a simple way to decrease the number of unhealthy calories and increase the intake of water (health fact: did you know that half of your body weight is the number in ounces of water you should drink per day?). Jesse also warns against extremes (ex. No more desserts forever) and instead recommends healthy alternatives. Click here for a fun, child-friendly, holiday snacking guide!
  • “Have fun with it!” Creating a fitness regime can be fun! Involve the entire family and take family classes at the local gym (ie. Family Zumba is a great option for an energetic dance class open to all ages and levels), spruce up daily walks (ie. Make it a scavenger hunt), engage in friendly competitions (ie. Click here for indoor gross motor activities), and once in awhile, treat your children to creative outings involving physical activity! The president’s challenge is an excellent program and resource with tips and strategies for maintaining a physically active and healthy lifestyle for children and adults!
  • “Don’t get discouraged.” Jesse explains that it takes at least six weeks to increase muscle mass and that you may not recognize changes in body composition. Set goals and keep a log of everyone’s weight so you can really track your success!

Happy 2012! Please share with us your family’s health and fitness goals for the new year!

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