Children frequently overindulge in junk food and sweets without realizing it can be hazardous in old age. Many of these kids grow up to be obese or have high cholesterol and high glucose levels, which ultimately lead to diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. A study done in 1997 concluded that obese adults typically began as overweight children or adolescents.
Today, nearly one in three American children and adolescents is overweight or obese. Within the past 30 years, the obesity prevalence rate has tripled among children aged 2 to 5 and young adults aged 12 to 19, and it has quadrupled among children aged 6 to 11 years of age. This puts children at long-term risk for chronic conditions, including heart disease, cancers of the breast, colon, and kidney, musculoskeletal disorder, diabetes, anemia, and hypertension.
Knowing the dangers of obesity from a young age, controlling it has become one of the most important public health concerns. These professionals are doing everything they can to raise awareness in communities and schools by translating research-based data into effective strategies that reduce obesity. Through these strategies, people are more likely to select healthy food and engage in physical activity, which makes it easier to stay healthy.
In addition to the public health response to prevent child obesity, schools and parents can also play an important role.
How Can Schools Help?
Many studies have linked obesity and poor school performance to unhealthy and risky behaviors, including excessive alcohol consumption, tobacco use, early sexual behavior, poor diet, and inactivity.
Schools can introduce public health programs where they can highlight the dangers of energy-dense foods with high-calorie and sugar content. In addition, they can bring in counselors, social workers, and public health professionals to raise awareness. They can also cooperate with teachers and parents to help children adopt a nutritional diet.
Let’s check out additional ways schools can encourage children to eat healthily.
- Instead of offering food with little nutritional value as rewards or prizes, offer non-food items like pencils, stickers, or extra playtime
- Ensure teachers are trained and well-informed about nutritious values, and they are incorporating them into lectures
- Educate teachers about the importance of good eating habits, so they can model them
- Consider offering healthy food at class parties, special events, and special lunchtimes, as well as in vending machines and cafeterias
- Allow at least 20 minutes for lunchtime socializing and eating
- For nutrition programs, be sure to provide healthy, culturally appropriate food choices
- Rather than relying on bake sales or selling food that is poor in nutrition, it is better to have non-food fundraisers
- Make recess time and student nutrition programs available at times when children will not be distracted from eating lunch
A healthy child learns more effectively. The memory and the ability to concentrate improve when children eat right. They can also grow and develop healthily if they eat well. That’s why it’s so vital that schools give students the chance to make healthy food choices.
How Can Parents Help?
Parents can make a huge difference in making healthier eating easier at school and at home. They can:
- Discuss with the child what they are learning about nutrition at school
- Always send them healthy snacks for lunches at school
- Serve nutritious food at lunches and parties.
- Contact the parent council or principal with your ideas and concerns
- Get involved with the school nutrition committee if there is one, or start one if there isn’t one.
- Discover whether there is a food policy in place or assist in creating one.
- Actively support health in schools. Provide nutrition education
- Focus on healthy eating and physical activity at home and make healthy home activities a priority
Children can sometimes be resistant to eating vegetables and fruit every day. However, if they’re available, ready to eat, and their parents are eating them, they’re more likely to eat these foods.
Moreover, parents can teach their kids how to grow, buy, and prepare different foods by involving them in food preparation activities. In addition to making their diet more varied, fruits and vegetables can help them taste and enjoy a wider variety of foods.
How Can Teachers Help?
Students, parents, and the community look up to their teachers as positive role models. Students closely observe what their teachers do and say and pick up on any discrepancy between the two. While this can be frustrating, remember that students learn from watching and copying what others do.
Teachers who make healthy choices – like eating well and exercising regularly – can have a positive impact not only on their students’ health but also on their own health.
It is possible for teachers to show the importance of healthy eating and physical activity at school if they:
- Bring a packed lunch and eat healthy lunches
- Offer healthy snacks at staff meetings, parent-teacher conferences, etc.
- Instead of lollies and sweets, use pencils and skipping ropes as rewards
- Walk briskly while on grounds duty
- Actively participate during physical education classes, recess, and lunch
- Take public transportation for school excursions since it is usually cheaper and they can get exercise at the same time
- Take a break from class to do something active
- Provide after-school and during-school physical activity opportunities
- Engage students in physical activity
To promote a healthy diet and physical activity policy, school staff needs to model healthy behavior. This helps to demonstrate leadership and commitment that inspires students and parents alike.
Children and teens need to make healthy choices when it comes to eating and exercise. However, it is not always so easy to put into practice what you say!
Nonetheless, it is worth taking some time to plan key steps to getting the kids and whole family eating healthier and engaging in more physical activity.