Dr. Gregory Jantz: Healthy Habits for Healthy Kids

In today's fast food culture, eating right can be difficult even for the most attentive parent. Dr. Gregory Jantz shares his tips on how to make health a family affair.


Are unhealthy habits weighing your family down? Despite what your children may think, fast-food French fries are not a vegetable, a balanced meal is not found in their school's vending machine, and activity is important. Because of poor nutrition decisions, kids today are now dealing with concerns that use to be associated only with adulthood and the aging process: hypertension, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, anxiety, and stress. But it's not too late to help your kids achieve a healthy, happy childhood. Dr. Jantz says you can help your family design a plan for a healthy, balanced lifestyle. A plan that is relevant for all members of the family, no matter the age or physical condition. Dr. Jantz suggests using a "team" approach when deciding on a plan for the whole family. He says the important thing to remember is to make it "fun" so you and your family can make lasting lifestyle changes. Dr. Jantz offers some suggestions for developing a successful family plan: Make getting healthy a game. Call a family meeting and get everyone's opinion of what they think they'll look like in five years. Set a goal. Encourage family members to participate in the plan over the next 30 days. Take baby steps. (1) Eat together as a family three nights a week; (2) Drink more water -at least a liter a day; (3) Keep a daily journal of food and beverage intake and compare notes with other family members at the end of the week; (4) Read food labels -learn the different titles for sugar and try to limit sugars; and (5) Add a source of protein to your breakfast Increase activity level. Ask family members to come up with three to five activities they would enjoy doing as a family. Try not to use the word "diet" or "exercise" since those words often can make children feel as though they've already failed. Dr. Jantz cautions parents not to become obsessed with their child's weight and activity level. In many cases, eating disorders occur in families where parents love their children and were trying to do the right thing, but their efforts went off track. One of the very best ways you can help your family succeed at a healthy lifestyle is by setting a good example yourself and getting your own relationship with food in order so your children have a healthy role model to follow. PHYSICAL ACTIVITY One of the main causes of childhood obesity is the reduction in the amount of physical activity for children. More and more children, are opting for sedentary lifestyles by choosing television, video games, and the computer instead of outdoor activities like running, jumping, and playing. Dr. Jantz says children need to be active, to use and stretch and grow that body that God has given them. School-age children need daily physical activity throughout the day. School PE is not enough! Children should have at least an hour of physical activity each and every day after school and at least two hours a day on the weekends. This activity should be highly physical and involve cardiovascular exercise, such as biking, running, skateboarding, ice-skating, roller-skating, or swimming. Consider enrolling him or her in an after-school club or organization that provides a variety of physical activities such as the YMCA. Younger children than five also need substantial physical activity. Toddlers can handle 15-20 minutes at a time. Pre-school age children can handle up to 30 minutes at a time. Dr. Jantz says as a parent you need to participate with your child, not only monitor the activity, but also provide support and guidance during it. GOOD NUTRITION IN A FAST-FOOD WORLD Although you’d like your child to eat a home-cooked meal every night sometimes it will not happen. You cannot avoid every McDonald’s, Krispy Kremes and vending machines around every corner. So to help your family develop healthy eating habits in a fast-food culture you have to teach your children about moderation and wise decision making. Dr. Jantz offers some suggestions for helping your family develop healthy eating habits. (1) Instead of grabbing the food from the drive-through, go into the restaurant, sit down, converse, and eat. Take your time to eat rather than making it just one more hurried activity. Allow your children’s stomachs time to register becoming full. (2) If the restaurant has a children’s play area, allow your younger children to engage in some activity after eating. (3) Choose a chicken selection over a burger. (4) Leave on the lettuce and tomato. (5) Look for fast-food restaurants where you can order alternatives to French fries. (6) Try a sandwich shop that allows you to control what goes on your order. (7) Make a fast-food stop a weekend treat. (8) Split the fries up and order a salad to share as well. (9) Choose ethnic fast food such as Chinese or Mexican. Many ethnic choices incorporate a higher proportion of veggies and leaner protein than typical American fast-food choices.


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