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Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Parents: What are some of the things you do to prevent obesity if your children?

Asked by Simone_De_Beauvoir (38975points) June 23rd, 2009

Is it about role modeling healthy behaviours? Is it about nutrition, limiting TV time, encouraging physical activity? Is it about working with their schools and teachers, finding out what they eat when they’re not at home?

Please mention the age of your children when writing your response and how difficult it is to convey certain messages, if at all…

My kids are young so they eat what we provide and I feel that in terms of nutrition, we do really well. I also know that kids aged 3 years and older should get 60 minutes a day of physical activity: structured and unstructured. I’ve talked to my toddler’s pre-school and had their staff trained (through my job) to bring more physical activity into their academic curricula and this summer we’re buying a swing/mountain/climbing playgroud for the kids to move around more outside…same goes for buying more scooters, bicycles and just last week, I got a couple of crawl through tunnels which seems to encourage more movement…There is also VERY limited TV time, maybe, if at all, 5 minutes a day of cartoons and there’s no TV in the pre-school which was important to us…I understand that as they grow older, outside influences will matters more than parental ones, but how have you managed to encourage healthy eating and physical activity in your children?

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39 Answers

mattbrowne's avatar

Limit the calories. Lots of fruit, vegetables and salads. Insist on plenty of exercise.

hearkat's avatar

I limited TV and Video Game time and made him go outside to play. I encouraged him to eat balanced meals and try a variety of foods.

But genetics play a large part, as well. I procreated with a man who had a naturally high metabolism and excellent muscle tone, so my son has had a 6-pack since he was about 6!

wundayatta's avatar

I second the genetics. I may be a rotund type, but my wife is naturally skinny. My daughter has definitely taken after her, and my son may have, too. Otherwise, as others have mentioned, good, fresh, locally grown vegetables and fruits are staples in our kitchen, and we encourage less time in front of the TV and more time doing physical activities.

Aethelwine's avatar

Our children are 5, 15 and almost 17. We don’t keep soda in the house, only for special occasions. My sons complained about it quite a bit when they were younger because “all of their friends had soda in the house”. I’m glad I kept my foot down on that one. We also try to limit fatty snacks and encourage exercise.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@mattbrowne what kind of exersize? do you exersize with them?

hearkat's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: Lucky for my son!! Unfortunately, with that metabolism and muscle tone came anxiety, anger, and and addictive personality… but I’ve also been working since he was born to give him the skills and confidence to cope with those things; but at 18, it isn’t easy.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@hearkat no, that doesn’t sound like it’s easy but you sound stable and like you have a grasp on things and that’s the best you can do

SirBailey's avatar

What I do is to live a healthy lifestyle MYSELF, addressing diet and exercise. You have to set an example.

JaclynDJ's avatar

I model the behavior w/ my own eating habits. The kids have never experienced white bread, only wheat – we integrate vegetables as much as possible – and of course limit the fast food. Sometimes if I feel they won’t like something that we’re going to try out I have them help me cook. They always tend to love whatever they helped to create :)

casheroo's avatar

My son is only )about) 2, but we try to instill healthy eating habits, and lots of exercise.
He eats at the table with the family, and we almost always have home cooked healthy meals. He’s more into carbs, but I don’t restrict that since he is very active.
As he gets older, we’ll have healthy alternatives to all that junk food. No soda, unless it’s natural (which is still going to be a special treat, and not until he’s a lot older) I don’t want unhealthy processed foods in my home. I want him to always be active, in sports or something.
Other than genetics, I do think lazy parenting plays a role in childhood obesity (not saying every case, but some of them) I believe as long as I’m a proactive parent with my child’s health, he will stay healthy.

cookieman's avatar

Things we do:
• No soda in the house.
• Sweets are rare in the house.
• Out to eat only about twice a month.
• Lots of fruit, veggies and fish.
• No meat in house.

My wife and I are porky from years of not doing the above. When we adopted my daughter five years ago we began eating much healthier. We’re really good about it (now we just need to exercise more).

Things that really help:
• My wife became a non-meat-eater.
• My daughter is not a picky eater and will try anything once.
• I work at a farm and am surrounded by amazing fruits and veggies (and I get a 25% discount).

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@cprevite I think it’s great that parenthood encouraged you to lead a healthier lifestyle, both for yourselves and your child

cookieman's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: Thank you. If not for her, then who – right?

Plus I believe what we do has way more impact on her choices than what we say. Don’t want to be a hypocrite.

DominicX's avatar

I’m genuinely curious what my parents would have to say. I know that we’ve never really had soda in the house and my sister and I both don’t like soda and we never have. I know that as young children, my parents encouraged us to be active and that kind of stuck. Alexanne and I played soccer in elementary school and then she went on to volleyball and I went on to track and badminton. As quite young children, we all tried out gymnastics. My sisters stuck with it for a few years. And of course, I’ve always liked biking and skateboarding—same with my brother. And we did get fast foods sometimes, and there were cookies around the house sometimes. But my parents cook a lot and they don’t tend to make fatty crap. My parents are pretty outdoorsy and love things like hiking and bike-rides and going to the beach. We did that a lot as kids. My siblings and I are all really skinny and short. We’re a small family. My mom is 5’3”, after all. Genetics certainly seems to have played a part.

I sure hope no one does what the dad on Little Miss Sunshine did…that’s not the way to go at all…

aliisyourfriend's avatar

My daughter is only 4, so we mostly just lead by example. We generally eat healthy home-cooked meals and I don’t keep soda or very many not-so-healthy snacks in the house. We try not to make too big of an issue out of food and go more for moderation rather than telling her some foods are “bad” and some are “good.”

She sees that we exercise every day and sometimes will join in—for fun, we’re not forcing her to do jumping jacks or anything. She’s a big fan of yoga and can do quite a lot of that with me. We mostly just try to model a healthy lifestyle. I’m sure that we’ll have to incorporate other things as she gets older, but I’m hopeful that we’re setting the groundwork now.

hearkat's avatar

I also didn’t allow soda, and would substitute by mixing 100% juice with seltzer… this way it was natural and lower in sugar.

casheroo's avatar

After reading my response and others, it makes me wonder how I didn’t end up obese lol. My parents were proactive in our extracurricular activities, I was always doing sports, playing outside with friends or whatever…but they never limited what they brought into the house. Growing up, Coke was my favorite drink and Pepsi was my brothers. We had any snack food we wanted, and always had a snack when we got home from school and then dinner and dessert. I have a major sweet tooth.
I was small though, so my parents just wanted me to eat, as with my brother. We have genetics that make us tall and lean.

Nowadays, children are just less active. They don’t play outdoors as much, have way too many videogames and technology to lose themselves to. It’s scary. I worry sometimes, about things like not buying my son the latest game console but he could just go to a friends and spend hours playing it without.
My son seems to have gotten my family’s genes when it comes to body type (although, he’s got stocky little legs and his father’s butt) so I wonder what it’ll be like for him as he gets older.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@hearkat 100% juice is really high in sugar and kids should only get about 6 oz of it a day if at all

hearkat's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: Thats why I said mixing it with seltzer is a better alternative.

ubersiren's avatar

We don’t do anything specific, but I think we just use common sense. Soda is rare, no sugary/salty processed snacks, lots of veggies and fruits. My husband and I both come from families that eat good healthy balanced meals and cook food at home most of the time. My son is 2 and he gets a cookie after dinner. We like our hearty filling comfort foods, but we try our best to not go overboard. If we continue to follow our families’ model, I think the midget(s) will be fine.

dannyc's avatar

It is tough in this bubble wrapped society. When I was young we just went outside all day and played till the sun went down. Never had to worry about what we ate, really. I do think though, that obese people are discriminated against somewhat, are looked down upon, and are a victim to an extent. With body image projected by the media of skinny, pretty and perfect etc..this can sometimes lead to a sense of despair amongst teenagers who then eat more for comfort and escape. My advice is to support and love and encourage your kids no matter what their weight. Work with them on the problem, do not judge them, nor any larger person for that matter. Especially for teenagers this is particularly important, and I have seen parents berate and insult their even slightly bigger kids, as they do not fit what their parents think is right. You can feel the pain of the rejection. I have witnessed this with my kids friends who confided their sorrow on this matter. I felt for them and saw it differently than I had in the past. I understand it is important to be fit, but it is not the end of the world as some parents think. They want the perfect kids, and as you get older you realize that they are not, they are just who they are. Sometimes it is all this over the top intervention that leads to the problem..the bubble-wrapping phenomena where a parent wants to control too much . As with many attempts at solving a problem, it may in fact lead to the very result you are seeking to eliminate.

Darwin's avatar

One big thing that we do is impose one important rule about food: you do not have to clean your plate, especially if someone else served you. However, if you serve yourself, you do. That has encouraged smaller portion sizes ever since the kids were old enough to serve themselves but has helped them avoid the clean plate drive that I grew up having (my parents grew up during the Depression and no one ever wasted anything).

Another is to structure family activities around some sort of fun physical exertion from the very beginning. If the kids are bored, take them out to play catch, or get everyone on their bikes to go for a ride. That way you build in the idea of physical activity as a fun thing, not work. In our house, it is a reward to look forward to getting after doing homework or housework.

We also, ever since the kids were tiny, have had a snack cupboard full of acceptable snacks – you don’t even have to ask before getting one. Of course, they are all whole-grain or fruit-based, low fat, or otherwise healthy choices. And, of course, the fruit bowl is always fair game.

We also encouraged our kids to check out any sport they were interested in. The only proviso is that if you join a team you need to finish out the season (even just on the bench if you get injured) because you can’t let others down. My daughter loves all sports and is currently varsity in three, JV in one, and does yet another outside of school. My son has fallen in love with baseball this year, and is also now a certified SCUBA diver.

And finally, I try to model healthy behavior. I take the stairs, I park far from the store, I go to the gym, I ride my bike for fun, I eat fruits and vegetables and limit my portion sizes, and I go to every game either child is in. I praise their successes and we jointly discuss their failures to try to learn from them.

My kids are now teenagers, and I think I have done a fairly good job of things. My daughter is very active and I think plans to be one of those folks who play tennis forever. My son has had some weight problems due partly to medications he has to take, and partly his love of French fries, but whenever he does slim down we always compliment his hard work, and we never denigrate his weight gain. Although SCUBA is expensive, he loves it so much that it is worth it to see him swimming laps so he will be better able to get out to the reefs.

Aethelwine's avatar

@Darwin no one ever wasted anything

That is my mom. Our family went to a Chinese Buffet a few years ago when my brother came to town from Arizona. One of my sisters (the trouble maker of the family) sat next to my youngest son and the two of them made a nice concoction of all the condiments on the table. My mother was so upset that she made my son eat the concoction that was made. I’m still angry with my mom because she made such a scene. I’m sure the wine she had that evening didn’t help.

Darwin's avatar

@jonsblond – I still keep wanting to wash and reuse plastic bags the way my mom did when I was little. And I have the hardest time throwing out perfectly good glass jars. It was easier when our city took them for recycling but now they don’t and we have to put them in the trash shudder

I also wash and reuse plastic silverware.

Aethelwine's avatar

@Darwin My mom always has “things she doesn’t need anymore” whenever she visits. I’m now the proud owner of a nice digital picture frame. Anything I don’t need ends up going to a local church or Goodwill. I love my mom, but is a concoction of ketchup, sweet and sour sauce, mustard and ice cream really going to make a difference?

Darwin's avatar

@jonsblondWhy didn’t she make your sister eat it, too? Sounds like discrimination (and the wine talking). However, certainly your son won’t do that again in front of your mom, even if his aunt begs him to.

Aethelwine's avatar

@Darwin My sister is the favorite. blah! He will never do that again, that’s for sure! At least when my mom is not around. :)

mattbrowne's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – when kids are very young no formal exercise or joining a sports club is really required in my opinion – kids just do it by themselves in the garden (if available), playground, park etc. The countryside would be ideal of course with forests, meadows etc. and it’s more tricky in a city. Using bicycles is great if possible. At the age of 8 or 10 they could learn a sport.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@mattbrowne I would love for my kids to do some sort of martial arts – and in the Fall my 3 year old will go a dance class with my old choreographer

mattbrowne's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – Our neighbors did that with their two girls. Martial arts do not only help to develop the body, but also the mind. My kids were not really interested, though. My son choice table tennis and my girl chose volley ball. Dance classes are also great! In Germany the “student proms” are actually organized by local dance schools and it’s really a big thing. Both my kids took dancing lessons for over a year.

Darwin's avatar

My father made me take dancing lessons for a year – worst year of my life! Field hockey was much better at letting me get rid of my frustrations.

I always think it is better to see what your kids like to do and are good at before pointing them towards a sport. My daughter always liked to run, so basketball and later soccer, track, and cross country were logical starting points for her. My son likes to fiddle with gadgets, hates to sweat, and likes to not have to listen to people talking at him, so SCUBA is a natural for him.

At three, most kids don’t exactly know what they like, so lots of short-term activities can be good, so they know what to choose when they are ready to be more serious about a sport or activity.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Darwin well my toddler is sort of all over the place, I asked him if he would like to go to a dance class and he said yes but he’d say yes to anything – so I’ll take him for a trial class and we’ll see

Darwin's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir At that same age we tried a music and movement class, which was really just organized chaos with a soundtrack but made the kids listen to music without having to learn steps or positions, and we tried toddler soccer, which largely involved running and sometimes kicking a ball. They also like “gymnastics” which was mostly somersaults and running in circles on a bouncy floor.

In any case, they both enjoyed it greatly and got them used to the ideas of moving to music, playing a group game on a field, and going to a gym.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Darwin lol, I know what you’re saying – my 4 month old is going to start a music class, maybe, in July – I just want them to experience music in a structured setting

cak's avatar

We do a lot of basic things. Keeping fatty snacks out of the house, really limiting sodas. Fresh fruits and veggies are a staple, in our kitchen. We haven’t cut meat completely out of the diets, but it is very limited. We limit things with empty calories – fruit juices and things like that…hidden sugars, no value…no need!

As far as exercise, we do many things. Both children are in organized activities and at home, we play outside, a lot. Also, when they want to play video games, it’s okay – as long as it’s the Wii (Wii Fit). We all love that program…some of it is so fun you wouldn’t count it as exercise. We all do yoga, our son really loves yoga.

for reference, my kids are 15 & 6 – they both started organized sports by the time they were 4.

casheroo's avatar

I just signed my almost 2 year old up for a “tumble tykes” class. He’ll be doing gymnastics sort of thing. I’m excited! He’ll get to socialize for a half hour after class, so I hope he makes some friends as well. Well probably be doing this all summer

gooch's avatar

Play outside like the old days. Not is it good for the body it’s good for the mind.

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