Childhood obesity is a national epidemic. Almost 1 out of 3 children (ages 2-19) in the US is overweight or obese, putting them at risk for serious health problems. That fact alone is a huge reason to encourage your kids to play sports.
Today’s guest post by nutritionist Cassandra Golden (MS, RD, LDN) offers another simple, but profound way to combat obesity. And it starts with three words: Eat Dinner Together.
Read her advice on how your family can get better at doing this….
Over 12 million children and adolescents in this country are obese. The American culture does not promote nutritious eating and daily physical activity. It’s hard for children to follow a healthy lifestyle when they are constantly exposed to environments in their home, child care center, school or community which encourage large portions of nutrient deficient foods and beverages.
What if the missing link is as simple as a family meal?
Research from Cornell University College of Human Ecology shows that children could be 35% less likely to engage in disordered eating, 24% more likely to eat healthier foods and 12% less likely to be overweight when participating in family mealtimes.
Other studies have shown that habitual family meals result in consuming more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while decreasing the consumption of highly saturated foods and soft drinks. Furthermore, children who take part in family meals have greater academic achievement, improved psychological well-being, have a lower risk for substance abuse, are less likely to try alcohol and cigarettes. and experience positive family interactions. These results are regardless of the family dynamic–single parent, step-family or traditional family.
Where can your family begin?
1. Set a goal to have family meals three or more times a week. This frequency has been shown the most positive results. Dinners can be substituted for breakfasts, lunches, or evening snacks. Even when family mealtimes feel chaotic or disorganized, take comfort in the fact that regular mealtimes are setting your children up for a bright future.
2. Aim to eliminate distractions from designated mealtimes. Turn off the television, cell phones, ipads, and computer to encourage communication between family members. Ask questions and actively listen as daily communication strengthens family connections. Creating a positive eating environment is directly associated with health and social benefits for your children.
3. Promote an atmosphere for mindful eating. Mindful eating pays close attention to the actual eating experience, focusing on savoring each bite to allow the brain time to hear the “I’m full” signals. This practice has shown to decrease overeating, which is beneficial for weight loss. Additionally, research from University of Wisconsin Integrative Medicine department has indicated that when we do not focus closely on eating, our digestive process is 30-40% less effective than it should be, which leads to gas, bloating, and discomfort.
Here’s the Bottom Line about Childhood Obesity:
Parents are agents of change. Even in today’s environment, you are capable of modeling healthy eating behaviors for your children. Start with regular family meal times and set them up for success that will last a lifetime.
Cassandra Golden is a Registered Dietitian and owner of Nutrition Nibbles Consulting, LLC. She received her BS in Exercise Science from USF in Tampa earned her MS in Dietetics & Nutrition from FIU in Miami. For more information on how Cassandra can help you rejuvenate your mind, body and soul through the power of nutrition, visit her website and social media accounts: www.CassandraGolden.com, https://www.facebook.com/NutritionNibblesWithCassandra/ and https://www.instagram.com/nutritionwithcassandra/.
“Childhood Overweight and Obesity.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015. Web. 11 Sept. 2016.
“North Dakota State University.” The Big Benefits of Family Meals. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2016.
“The Most Important Thing You Can Do with Your Kids? Eat Dinner with Them.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2016.
Koenigsberger, Debra, and Luke Fortney. “Mindful Eating.” http://www.fammed.wisc.edu/. Sept. 2010. Web. 11 Sept. 2016