If you can make healthy eating and activity a 'matter of fact' way of life instead of a big production or discussion, you and your family will be way ahead of the curve," says Pauline Williams, Clinical Nutrition manager at Primary Children's Medical Center. "Though you may need some planning and discussion to get started, it's really the most effective way to encourage your entire family to maintain a healthy weight."
In response to the health crisis facing Utah—studies estimate that about one in four Utah children are overweight with nearly 10 percent of all Utah kids classified as obese—Williams and a host of experts at Intermountain Healthcare have joined forces in a multi-year statewide public service campaign to get Utah's children to be more physically active and eat healthier. Named LiVe, the campaign's main focus is with children ages 11-15, but is also designed to help parents gain tools and knowledge to help their children.
"Your attitudes and actions can make all the difference in your kids' future health," says Williams. "The simplest things can make the biggest difference in the long run." Here are some of her suggestions for encouraging positive attitudes about food and weight for a lifetime of good habits:
- Eat breakfast everyday.
- Have dinner as a family.
- Serve two vegetables at dinner.
- Encourage smaller portions of foods or set a standard of seconds for vegetables only.
- Walk to school.
- Walk, hike or play games three or more times a week as a family.
- Involve kids in planning and preparing meals.
- Meet as a family to plan dinners for the week and to make assignments for preparation, cooking and clean up.
- If you feel limited in the types of meals you're making, learn to cook. Enroll in foods at school, sign up for a 4-H cooking club or register for a community cooking class. As you explore the world of food, the varieties, flavors, and textures, it becomes easier and more fun to add variety to your family's diet.
- Remind kids that healthy and happy bodies come in all sizes. No one body shape or size is a healthy one or the right one for everybody.
- Never put kids on a diet without first consulting a primary care provider. Kids, just like adults, need to eat a variety of foods and get enough exercise.
- While parents should be concerned about weight for health reasons, they should also be careful not to nag, pick on kids, or name call.
- Parents and kids should not only watch what they say about others, but what they say about themselves.
The LiVe website, IntermountainLiVe.org contains free, helpful materials for parents and kids.