Last year, Statistics Canada announced 31 percent of Canadian children between the ages of five and 17 were overweight or obese. While the number hasn't increased in more than a decade, it remains a serious cause for concern and serves as a call to action.
The Toll of Obesity
Children who are obese face many obstacles as they age. There are the health problems, which include type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, joint and bone issues and difficulty breathing and/or sleep apnea. There are also emotional struggles obese children may unfortunately encounter, such as depression, negative body image and low self esteem.
Tackling Childhood Obesity
Obesity among Canadian children has been linked to diet and inactivity. Children are eating more processed foods with lots of hidden calories and sugar, consuming soda instead of water and choosing technology over physical activity. These trends aren't unique to Canada, unfortunately, but the Canadian government has taken steps to help curb them.
In 1942, the first Canada Food Guide, the Official Food Rules, was released with the purpose of educating Canadians on the best food choices to make to get the nutrients they needed on a daily basis. Since then, the annual publication has continued promoting a healthy, balanced lifestyle with food suggestions and guidelines. Among the tips found in the 2013 guide, Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide, are the suggestions that soda be limited to an occasional treat, replaced with water and that children should enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables and be physically active for at least an hour on a daily basis.
What You Can Do
Being proactive is the best way to help your child reach or maintain a healthy weight. Here are some suggestions:
Be a role model.
Lead by example and eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. Kids are very observant and soak up what they see and hear like a sponge.
Start the day right.
Never skip breakfast -- a breakfast with protein and fiber will give your child energy and help them stay full and satisfied to avoid eating junk.
Create a snack station.
Store healthy snacks in pre-portioned amounts in the fridge and cupboards. Nuts, carrots and hummus, apple slices and peanut butter and grapes make great options they can easily grab.
Brown bag it.
If your child's school doesn't offer healthy meal options, take the time to prepare a healthy lunch for your child.
Engage your child in fun physical activities or games. A little friendly family competition never hurts.
Take them shopping.
Bring your child along with you to the market or grocery story and talk them through the choices you make. Teach them how to read a nutrition label.
Limit their time in front of the television or computer screen. Check the local area for opportunities for physical activities.
Help your child keep a positive self image and respect themselves and others at all times.
Sneak in exercise.
If you’re running to the local drugstore or grocery, walk instead of taking the car. Your child will notice that choice. Always be positive about any opportunities you and your child have to bike or walk.
Obesity and Your Community
Stay active at your child's school so your opinion can be heard when it comes to school lunches, playground equipment and curriculum. Talk with other parents about what works for them and share your ideas. You can also help organize healthy activities for students and parents where they can learn about nutrition or cooking and get some exercise.
Childhood obesity is a major problem, but you can help your child stay on the right track. Get more health tips and find healthy foods, supplements and more for your child's health at eVitamins Canada!