Nearly 1 in 3 Michigan children are overweight or obese.
Unfortunately, a “normal” diet in America has shifted in a direction that permits people of all ages to choose convenience foods and sugary beverages over healthier options. In addition to poor food choices, serving sizes have largely exceeded what the body naturally needs.
Implementing healthier habits early in life ensures a child’s body is functioning properly while lowering the risk of chronic conditions.
Ensuring a healthy future
Be a role model: In the first years of life, children learn what, when and how much to eat by observing the behaviors of those around them. When a family’s daily diet embraces excess sugar, salt and trans fats instead of nutritional options like veggies and fruits, adolescents will mirror those dietary habits and have a harder time changing them later in life.
Work together: Initiating conversations around health and wellness can give a child insight on the importance of properly fueling their body. Cooking meals together at home is a great opportunity to discuss healthy options, while demonstrating basic culinary skills and encouraging them to take an interest in their health and make smarter choices on their own.
Limit screen time: An unhealthy diet paired with inactivity is a recipe for disaster. Ensuring children get a break from phones, iPads and/or video games positively impacts their physical and mental well-being. Signing up for a sport, playing outside or finding creative ways to get moving in the house can stimulate young brains and endorse healthier habits.
Stop the pop: The role of soft drinks in the risk of childhood obesity is undeniable. Allowing children to indulge in sugary beverages on a regular basis can alter taste buds to crave higher amounts of sugar and perpetuate an addictive craving over time. Steer clear of refined sugars and soft drinks to improve a child’s brain, dental and developmental health.
Bones: When a child’s diet includes food that are rich in nutrients, including calcium, dairy, vitamins and protein, it strengthens healthy bone density and promotes growth while minimizing the likelihood of osteoporosis and other brittle bone disorders.
Brain: From pregnancy throughout early childhood, a nutritional diet helps young brains function and grow. A deficiency of glucose, vitamins, minerals and proteins can lead to undeveloped neurotransmitters and a higher risk of mental disorders.
Muscles: Nutritional foods endorse skeletal development and play an important role in maintaining normal muscle function throughout life. Experts suggest a plant-based diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains and lean meats.
Vascular system: The heart, blood and vessels work together and rely on a diet rich in nutrients to efficiently deliver oxygen throughout the body. Regularly consuming unhealthy fats and sodium creates excess cholesterol and can harm circulatory health early in life.
Lower risk of chronic conditions
Ensuring a child’s nutritional health helps to avoid serious issues later in life, including chronic conditions such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, depression and eating disorders.
Dr. T. Jann Caison-Sorey is an associate medical director at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more health tips, visit AHealthierMichigan.org.