August- Kids Eat Right Month!
Kids Eat Right Month- written by UTK Dietetic Intern Becca Marks
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics dedicates the entire month of August to a nutrition education, information sharing, and action campaign focused on our smallest and youngest eaters. Deemed “Kids Eat Right Month,” the Academy celebrates the importance of smart shopping, healthy eating, and active lifestyles so that we set up our kids for healthy and successful futures.
For children between the ages of 2 and 19, the rate of obesity is 19.3%, which is about 14.4 million children and adolescents nationwide.1 Among this percentage, 25.6% of children were Hispanic children, 24.2% were non-Hispanic Black children, 16.1% were non-Hispanic White children, and 8.7% were non-Hispanic Asian children.1 By adopting healthy habits in early childhood, parents and kids alike can take steps toward preventing obesity and its comorbidities such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension.
Below are a few habits families can adopt to create healthier lifestyles for individuals of all ages:
Get Kids Involved in Planning Meals
When kids are involved in planning family meals, they’re more likely to try something new, as well as have a better understanding of what foods make a meal nutritious. Challenge your kids by taking them to grocery shopping with you and pick out a new healthy food to try. Then have them find a healthy recipe in which they can use that ingredient!
Get Active as a Family
This could be as simple as taking a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood, hosting a dance party in your living room, or shooting hoops at your nearest basketball court. Get creative with ways to get your kids off the couch and moving!
Enjoy Family Meals Together
An important step for improving overall family health and creating bonding relationships, family meals offer a host of benefits for all members. Eating together as a family has been shown to reduce rates of depression and drug abuse2, improve school performance in adolescents3, and tend to promote healthful eating habits, which in turn helps family members maintain their weight4.
Limit Screen Time
Kids today are spending more and more time in front of a screen, whether it be the TV, their smartphones, or computers. And although some of this time may be dedicated to academics, there is growing concern over how all this screen time may be affecting their development and overall health. It is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics that kids spend no more than one hour per day on non-educational content in front of a screen on weekdays and no more than 3 hours on weekend days.
One of the most important things individuals can do for their health is staying hydrated. Our bodies are made up of about 60% of water, so it is critical that we replenish our water stores, especially during the dog days of summer.
Young children learn so much through observation. Parents have huge opportunities to set their kids up for success just by following all the tips mentioned above themselves. By choosing healthier foods and beverages, getting out and active each day, and limiting screen time, they are reinforcing these habits in their kids.
1. Childhood Obesity Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html. Published April 5, 2021. Accessed July 21, 2021.
2. The Importance of Family Dinners 2012. Partnership to End Addiction. https://drugfree.org/reports/the-importance-of-family-dinners-viii/. Published June 29, 2020. Accessed July 21, 2021.
3. Jarosz E. Class and eating: Family meals in Britain. Appetite. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0195666317300065?via%3Dihub. Published May 29, 2017. Accessed July 22, 2021.
4. RC; ASEW. Household routines and obesity in US preschool-aged children. Pediatrics. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20142280/. Accessed July 22, 2021.