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Healthy Eating Habits to Fight Obesity

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Obesity is a rising epidemic today and more and more children are considered obese than ever before. What can parents do to help their kids beat obesity and stay healthy? Vinay Saranga M.D., a child psychiatrist and founder of Saranga Comprehensive Psychiatry, offers this advice:

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  • Talk to Your Child: A conversation about weight needs to be handled delicately so that you don’t hurt your child’s feelings. It’s important to be empathetic while educating yourself and your child on the detrimental effects of added weight. It’s best to let your child guide the conversation to keep an open line of communication. While speaking with your child about his/her weight, refrain from making statements and ask questions instead. For instance, instead of saying “You’re not very active” rephrase it into a question “How can you become more active?”
  • Encourage Healthy Eating Habits: Eating a balanced diet is a great way to help control weight. Be sure that your child is eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and buy whole grain foods instead of white. It’s also best to limit beverages loaded with sugar and opt for more water. Let your child get creative with his/her water by adding some fruit to naturally sweeten it and make it more exciting.
  • Go slow: If you introduce too many new things at once you may overwhelm your kids. Go slow and remember that every little step helps you accomplish the bigger goal of better health. For example, every meal might not be 100% low fat or low sugar, but a good place to start might be to reduce the serving of salt or sugar you use to prepare a dish, slightly reduce portion sizes, exchange water in place of soda or juice, and offer a serving of veggies at each meal.
  • Make Activity a Family Event: Being active at least 30 minutes a day is a great way to help remove excess weight and strengthen muscles. Brainstorm with your child some outside activities that he/she enjoys and make a plan. Even if you don’t have much time during the week to be active with your child, make activity a family event on the weekends. Go to a park, take a walk in nature, or visit a zoo. Those include lots of walking and provide some education along the way.
  • Include Your Child in Healthy Decisions: Children want to feel included in family decisions so let them participate in the healthy decisions. Ask your child what he/she would like to have for dinner or where he/she would like to go on family activity day. Including your child increases the likelihood that your child will stick with a healthy lifestyle.
  • Set the example: Children are always watching every move their parents make. If you want your children to eat better and be more active, you must also model this behavior. You lose credibility with your kids if you tell them to do something but you don’t practice what you preach.
  • Get help: There are a lot of food choices, recipes and recommendations out there, and sometimes it can all be confusing. When in doubt about what’s right for your kids, always talk to their pediatrician or seek the advice or a dietician or nutritionist who can help clear up any confusion or questions you have.

Keep reading to learn the superfoods to include in 2019 and beyond from Cassandra Verdi, MPH, RD, coauthor of Diabetes Superfoods Cookbook and Meal Planner (American Diabetes Association.

  • Berries. Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and cranberries are packed with antioxidants, which are cancer-fighting molecules. Berries are also a great source of fiber. We like them fresh, but they can be enjoyed frozen (great in smoothies) or in dried form as a tasty snack.”
  • Citrus Fruits. Oranges, clementines, grapefruit, lemons, and limes are great providers of vitamin C and soluble fiber. Pack oranges or clementines as a snack since they travel well.
  • Cruciferous Veggies. Cruciferous veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and bok choy are rich in fiber and a plethora of phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals. Incorporate them into a plate of crudités at your next gathering.
  • Dark Leafy Greens. Spinach, collards, kale, romaine lettuce, mustard greens, watercress, and Swiss chard are nutrient powerhouses that provide vitamin C, fiber, folic acid, potassium, magnesium, and iron. They are also very low in carbohydrates! Pair them with other superfoods to create delicious salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes, omelets, or soups.
  • Fish High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids. The American Diabetes Association recommends that most people eat fish at least two to three times per week. Some fish are packed with nutrients called omega-3 fatty acids, which play a role in heart and brain health. These include salmon, trout, sardines, anchovies, herring, Pacific oysters, and Atlantic and Pacific mackerel. In addition to healthy fats, fish also provide vitamin D and calcium.
  • Healthy Fats. Diabetes nutrition guidelines have shifted away from promoting a low-fat diet in recent years. Newer research shows that when planning meals for diabetes, it’s more important to look at the type of fat you’re eating rather than the total amount of fat. Healthy fats may help with blood glucose management and lower the risk of heart disease. Sources include most plant-based oils (olive, canola, corn, etc.), avocados, olives, nuts, nut butters, and seeds.
  • Herbs and Spices. While there is still a body of evidence building about the benefits of various herbs and spices, many of these plant-based ingredients have been associated with health benefits. Not to mention, they don’t add any extra calories, carbs, or sodium to your dishes. So these are one of the best ways to flavor your food!
  • Lean Protein. Lean fish, shellfish, eggs (especially the egg whites), and poultry without the skin fall into this category. These foods are high in protein and contain little fat and no carbohydrate. Protein has less of an effect on blood glucose levels, so unless you follow a vegetarian eating pattern, it’s a great idea to incorporate these foods into your meals in portions that fit your meal plan.
  • Legumes—Beans, Peas, and Lentils. These budget-friendly, plant-based proteins are also an excellent choice at mealtime! Legumes also include bean-based foods like hummus, edamame, and soy products. For 1/2 cup of beans, you get about 15–20 grams of carbohydrate, but you also meet approximately 1/3 of your daily fiber needs. They also provide magnesium, folate, potassium, and iron.
  • Low-Fat Milk and Yogurt. Milk and yogurt provide important nutrients such as calcium and protein and are usually fortified with vitamin D. When it comes to milk, opt for nonfat milk whenever possible. And for yogurt, always compare nutrition information on labels in the yogurt aisle to determine the best pick.
  • Sweet Potatoes. Sweet potatoes are packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium. They also have a lower glycemic index than regular potatoes, so they won’t affect your blood glucose as much. They are a starchy vegetable, so it’s important to eat them in small portions—1/2 cup cooked has about 15 grams of carbohydrate.
  • Tomatoes. These nonstarchy vegetables are packed with nutrients including vitamins A, C, and E, as well as potassium. They also are high in lycopene, an antioxidant that has been linked to many health benefits.
  • Whole Grains. Whole grains include oats, whole wheat, barley, brown rice, quinoa, farro, and even popcorn. Try to make most of the grains you eat whole grains! It’s a simple swap from white rice to brown rice or from white bread to a nuttier, more flavorful whole wheat. Whole grains provide dietary fiber and have been linked to heart health, which is important for people with diabetes because of their increased risk of heart disease. Whole grains also offer a host of vitamins and minerals.

The best news is, superfoods aren’t just good for you; they taste great too! And with the Diabetes Superfoods Cookbook and Meal Planner, you’ll have plenty of quick, creative, and healthy new recipes to enjoy in 2019.

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