Kids and Weight
I have noticed that children are more aware of themselves and the body types of others starting at 5-6 years of age. They can identify a classmate who is „overweight“ or „out of shape“. Though the words they use may be harsher and more direct. So-and-so is fat or so-and-so can`t run or s0-and-so is always tired and doesn’t listen. Kids often do not mean to be hurtful. To them they are simply stating an observation. To the child being observed or commented on, it can be devastating.
Schools are so into promoting the idea of healthy eating but do not provide parents with the tools needed to determine what constitutes a healthy snack or lunch option. Often the administrators or teachers are applying policies and procedures in the school system based on their own beliefs and perceptions as opposed to sound and credible advice from leaders in the field of health and nutrition.
An example would be a teacher advocating for the removal of daily delivery of cow milk from a Pre-K students class or a teacher implementing a food policy where perceived unhealthy food items found in a child’s lunch box would be sent home on a given day of the week. I truly do not believe that there is no immediate way to change the system. Kids will be kids and policy makers will remain policy makers.
As parents we want the best for our kids and we want them to put their best foot forward and to be the best they can be physically and intellectually. It is our responsibility and, fortunately, it is in our power as parents to acquire and provide the tools necessary to do better with regards to nutrition and exercise.
The question then becomes how do we know if action is required and, if so, which action should we take?
This is not a complete guide but certainly a place to start.
- Do your children play competitive sports?
- Are you breaking your head wondering what to give them for lunch?
- Do your kids leave the house without eating breakfast in the morning?
- Are your children very picky eaters or always complaining that they are hungry?
- Do your kids feel tired a lot, have trouble concentrating in school or get spikes and drops in energy?
- Are your children glued to any number of television/computer or telephone screens at the expense of playing outside or seeing friends?
- Is there always a social occasion where kids have free access to whatever they choose to eat from a buffet or sweet table?
- Do you instinctively feel that your kids are eating a disproportionate amount of junky food as opposed to healthier options?
- It is hard to determine if our own children are carrying any extra weight. We love them as they are and so we should. But for their sake, even if it may be hard to hear, ask your doctor during their checkup appointment or vaccination if paying a little more attention to a weight issue may prove beneficial.
- Do you lack time to cook and grocery shop and therefore find the family ordering in or eating out a lot?
These are some red flags that indicate that further intervention may be required. A professional like myself, a registered dietitian or nutritionist, will likely be your best option. They will do a medical screen, a nutritional evaluation, provide a nutrition plan and structure and monitor weight and performance.
It is a chance for parents and kids to bond. It gives the children confidence and knowledge so they cannot be swayed by opinion, rhetoric or food trends, it will also reduce the media and food industries’ influence over your children’s food choices. It will give them the fuel to attain better results in school and improved sports performance.
What I can tell you for sure is that we expect a lot from our kids – to socialize, to participate, to learn, to work, to perform, to achieve, and to excel. We also expect them to spend over 8 -12 hours a day doing so. Should we therefore not give them every advantage including ensuring adequate nutrition to help get them through the day?
I will be thrilled to answer any questions or comments that you may have on the subject!
Janice Cohen, R.D.
* Image used in this post is from FreeDigitalPhotos.net/ stockimages