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You Can Have Healthy Children

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You Can Have Healthy Children

A young mother, in her mid-20s and grossly overweight, was pulling a four-wheeled cart behind her. In the cart was an obese six-year-old child. The young boy, sitting cross-legged, was eating a mound of pretzels and potato chips piled high in his lap.

You Can Have Healthy ChildrenIt was a sunny spring morning. A young mother, in her mid-20s and grossly overweight, was pulling a four-wheeled cart behind her. In the cart was an obese six-year-old child. The young boy, sitting cross-legged, was eating a mound of pretzels and potato chips piled high in his lap.

Must children follow a parent's pattern of obesity or ill health? It doesn't have to be that way. The cycle of poor health can be broken, but not without discipline in an affluent world beset with and seduced by distractions and fast foods.

I saw in this mother and child three pressing necessities: her need to change the way of life her child was emulating, his need for exercise, and their combined need for a change in diet.

Adult Disease in a Child's Body

More and more children suffer from what used to be diseases largely confined to their parents. As much as 45 percent of all new cases of diabetes in children are type 2, commonly known as "adult-onset diabetes." Obesity and lack of exercise are the major factors for this disease, which can lead to heart disease, kidney failure, and blindness.

Osteoporosis, a dangerous thinning of the bones that usually takes place in women after menopause, is now being found in adolescent girls. The culprit, according to one theory, is soft drinks. "Teens have doubled or tripled their consumption of soft drinks and have cut consumption of milk by more than 40 percent," says Dr. Grace Wyshak of the Harvard School of Public Health.

Help Your Kids

Set limits on television viewing, Internet surfing, and playing video games. Study after study links electronic entertainment with declining levels of physical activity, increased consumption of junk foods, and overexposure to anxiety-causing violence. It's important to do things with your children to get them involved in the real world.

Teach them to eat what is good for their health, not just what tastes good. Learn why junk food is harmful and tell your children. Become informed about food colourings, preservatives, and additives.

For mental and physical health, expose children to challenging physical tests befitting their age. Teach your children to extend themselves physically and to know they can reach worthwhile goals. Unless they are suffering from a limiting impairment, encourage them to break through the pain barrier of running several kilometres or hiking with loaded packs. These types of activities teach the skill of enduring the trials of life they will inevitably encounter. Engage them in some type of aerobic exercise several times weekly enough to get them sweating and breathing hard. Teach them that to get to the top of satisfying emotional mountains in life also requires going through low valleys.

Here is some rock-solid advice for concerned parents:

  • If you smoke, stop.
  • If you overeat, eat less.
  • If you don't exercise, become more active.

After all, your children are just little copies of you. They mimic how you think and what you do. For their good health, aren't your children worth some changes?

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Matthew Kadey, MSc, RDMatthew Kadey, MSc, RD