Today, I’ve put together a Let’s Move Action Plan for Parents to help spread the word on how we as parents can help our children live healthier lives and reduce childhood obesity nationwide.
This week, I had the amazing opportunity to join in on a conference call with the Executive Director of Let’s Move!, Sam Kaas, who leads this important initiative launched by First Lady Michelle Obama 4 years ago. Let’s Move is dedicated to solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation.
By fostering environments that support healthy choices, including providing healthier foods in schools, ensuring that every family has access to healthy, affordable food, and helping kids become more physically active, Let’s Move is focused on putting children on the path to a healthy future during their earliest months and years.
Although we still have a long way to go before we have a nation of healthy people, a lot of progress has been made. Just this week, federal health authorities reported a 43% drop in the obesity rate among 2-5 year old children over the past decade. Obesity can lead to higher risks for cancer, heart disease and stroke, so this is a very positive trend. However, this age group represents just a small fraction of the American population.
On our phone call with Sam Haas, he highlighted some exciting developments that will hopefully continue to help reduce the rate of obesity in larger age group categories among children:
- Nearly 90% of schools have already met the new meal pattern and nutrition standards for school lunches (based on the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans that increases the availability of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the school menu) through additional funding for fruits and vegetables.
- Local school wellness policy guidelines have been proposed which set goals for nutrition education and amount of physical activity, including a standard that if an item can’t be sold or served in schools, it can’t be marketed to kids in schools either.
- Through the expansion of the school breakfast program, low-income schools can now provide breakfast for all kids in those schools. This has the potential to serve nearly 9 million kids in 22,000 schools across the country in giving kids the nutrition that they need. In the pilot programs going on across the country, they’ve seen improved test scores (17.5% better on math tests) and better behavior.
I asked Sam Kaas this question: What can parents do to help provide a healthy environment at home for their kids to reinforce what they’re learning in the schools with the Let’s Move initiative?
Here’s what he had to say:
1. Breastfeed your baby
- Did you know that children who are breastfed have a 22% lower risk of becoming obese? Starting them off from the day they are born puts them on a path to health.
2. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables
- This may sound daunting or near impossible, but it’s really not. By serving a piece of fruit and a vegetable at each meal, you’re there. There are also some tricky ways to add extra vegetables to pasta sauce, chili and soups to help get those extra vegetables in at mealtime.
- Studies have shown that eating a healthy school breakfast results in increased math scores (+17.5%) and improvement in behavior.
3. Drink water instead of soda and sugary drinks
- Add fresh fruit slices to water or sparkling water for fun (e.g., lemon, lime, cucumber, peach, pineapple, watermelon). Or, make ice cubes with fruit pieces frozen inside. Make your own popsicles with 100% juice without added sugar.
- Add a splash of 100% juice to sparkling water.
4. Encourage your child to get 60 minutes of active play a day.
- Exercise helps reduce stress, maintain a healthy weight, keep bones, muscles and joints healthy. Kids sleep better at night too.
As parents, we are role models for our kids. Read 6 Easy Tips for Improving Physical and Mental Health and learn easy ways to improve your own health.
To learn more about Let’s Move, checkout their website.
Please help spread the word of what we, as parents, can do to help our children live a healthier life by sharing this Let’s Move! Action Plan for Parents Infographic and post on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Google+.