Every Kid Healthy Week starts on April 20, so today, we’ll share some of our favorite tips to help your little ones grow up strong and healthy. The earlier they’re introduced to a healthy lifestyle, the more likely it will be for them to stick with it all their lives.
Sponsored by Action for Healthy Kids, the campaign strives to ensure every child in America is well nourished, physically active, healthy and ready to learn. Stating that “one in three kids in this country is either overweight or obese,” the organization targets school leaders as well as parents and caregivers to raise awareness and pledge to change childhood obesity.
The Hallelujah Diet encourages adults—particularly parents and guardians—to take action by instilling healthy habits in our nation’s youth. Adults are role models for our children and you can lead them by taking care of your own body through a well-balanced diet and active lifestyle, thereby teaching our kids the importance and benefits of being healthy.
Here are a few statistics about childhood obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
- The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period.
- In 2012, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
Overweight vs. Obese
The CDC defines overweight as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors. Obesity is defined as having excess body fat.
Growth Charts can help you determine the corresponding Body Mass Index (BMI) for children and adolescents (aged 2-19 years):
- Overweight is a BMI at or above the 85th percentile and lower than the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex.
- Obesity is a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex.
Overweight and obese children are at greater risk of developing serious health conditions such as:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Bone and joint problems
- Depression and low self-esteem
4 Tips for Creating Healthier Lifestyles in Your Children
1) Eat—or drink—more fruits and vegetables. A raw, plant-based diet is naturally low in fat and calories yet still filling because it provides important vitamins and minerals—some that, according to the health initiative Fruit and Veggies-More Matters, are underconsumed in the U.S., including vitamins A, C and K, potassium, fiber and magnesium. It is also well known that diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes and some cancers.
Although the American Heart Association recommends that children eat between 1 cup (ages 1-3) and 2 cups (ages 14-18) of fruits per day and between ¾ cup (age 1) to 3 cups (ages 14-18) of vegetables per day, their calculation considers both cooked and raw fruits and vegetables. However, focus on raw plant-based foods to get the most nutrients in your children. Aim for 1-2 pieces of fruit each day for your 1-2 year olds and 2-3 pieces for a 3+ year old. For vegetables, start with a little more than the recommended ¾ cup of vegetables per day for age 1, then progressively incorporate more and more raw vegetables as they older.
Start each meal with raw fruits and vegetables, and don’t deviate from this habit. It will become a lifelong routine! Eventually, your children will expect a colorful salad at the table before they get to anything else. Make your own pure juice with fruits and vegetables to add a little variety in your kids’ meals. For snacking, simply give them fresh, in-season, locally produced fruit, and always have plenty on hand so your kids consider fresh fruit their “default snack.” Fruit won’t fill them up too much and will tide them over until the next sit-down meal. Adding a colorful fruit, like berries, to your juices will make beverage consumption more appealing, too! They’ll never ask you for high fructose corn syrup-laden Juicy Juice again!
The Hallelujah Diet’s recipe book Fresh Vegetable & Fruit Juices is your go-to guide for creating delicious juices your kids will love. Berry BarleyMax also offers a powerhouse of super-charged nutrition: the gluten-free juice powder offers 100% of the protein in steak, 400% of the calcium in milk and 2200% of the iron in spinach—and it comes in a fresh flavor your kids will enjoy.
2) Increase vitamin intake with tasty supplements, foods and juices. You can increase your children’s intake of vitamins and minerals through a healthy diet rather than a daily multivitamin. According to WebMD, the six essential vitamins for a child’s diet include:
- Vitamin A promotes normal growth and development; tissue and bone repair; healthy skin, eyes and immune responses. Healthy sources: Sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach and squash.
- Vitamin B, including B2, B3, B6 and B12, aid metabolism, energy production and healthy circulatory and nervous systems. Healthy sources: Avocado, dates, mango, pecans and other nuts. Note: Vitamin B12 supplements are recommended more than the most common source, which are animal proteins.
- Vitamin C promotes healthy muscles, connective tissue and skin. Healthy sources: Citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi, tomatoes and broccoli.
- Vitamin D promotes bone and tooth formation and helps the body absorb calcium. Healthy sources: The best source of vitamin D is sunlight.
- Calcium helps build strong bones (and teeth) as a child grows. Healthy sources: Broccoli, kale, figs, oranges and white beans.
- Iron builds muscle and is important for healthy red blood cells. Healthy sources: Dark leafy greens, prunes and sunflower seeds.
Hallelujah Diet Nutritional Essentials in a great-tasting vanilla flavor is a whole-food supplement that provides key vitamins and nutrients for ultimate antioxidant power. Use it in this Brain Power Smoothie recipe to help your kids have better concentration and focus throughout the day.
3) Have fun actively (not inactively)! The combination of exercise and a healthy diet are the essential building blocks for long-term health. Extensive television and electronics time has been associated with childhood obesity, according to research. Allowing your kids to play, run and participate in outdoor activities they truly enjoy will get their cardiovascular systems working. Try a dance class or soccer—anything that will get their hearts pumping! The American Heart Association recommends that children and teens get at least 60 minutes of daily exercise. You can also teach your kids why being active is so important for optimal health: It strengthens bones, decreases blood pressure, reduces stress and anxiety, increases self-esteem and helps with weight management.
4) Spend time together in the kitchen. Not only does cooking with your children teach them a wonderful skill they can use for the rest of their lives, it could also make even the most finicky eater more interested in trying healthy foods. Need more incentive for involving your children in food preparation? It can provide self-confidence, reduce the number of times the family eats out and you’ll be spending fun quality time together.
For more Hallelujah Diet recipes to try with your children, grab a copy of Everyday Gluten Free, which features 90 easy-to-make wholesome family recipes such as pizza, biscuits, cakes and snacks. Have them actively participate making juices and smoothies – let them pick the ingredients and use the machines themselves. Or teach your kids how to use a Vegetable Spiral Slicer—they’ll love making interesting shapes with their foods!
Young children learn through observation and play. It’s so important to make your family’s health a priority by changing what you do together on a regular basis. This includes where you get your food and, of course, what kinds of food you consume. Take the Every Kid Healthy pledge to help your children be healthy, active and ready to learn!