Javier Guardado's mom was concerned-the 11-year-old's eating
habits were causing him to gain too much weight. So she decided the
whole family needed to make some changes to be more healthful.
"It wouldn't be fair if I told my son we were just going to
change what he ate," his mom, Rocio Simental, says. "It has to be
change for the whole family."
After visiting with his pediatrician, Dr. Robert Andersen, who
explained the consequences of being overweight to Javier, the
family now eats fruit for snacks and puts smaller portions on their
plates at mealtimes.
It's an urgent issue facing many parents these days. Obesity
rates in children have almost tripled in the last 20 years due of a
variety of factors, including less exercise and eating too much.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11
percent of children ages 2 to 5 are overweight, 15 percent of kids
6 to 11 are overweight and 18 percent of adolescents 12 to 19 are
"It's not news that there is a childhood obesity epidemic in our
country, but many parents don't know there are simple, effective
steps they can take to make sure their kids-as well as
themselves-don't become or stay obese," says Andersen, a
pediatrician practicing in the Chicago area and author of The
No-Gimmick Guide to Raising Fit Kids.
Andersen offers the following 12 "commandments" for healthful
eating for the whole family.
1. Eat together as a family as often as
possible. Family meals help develop stronger relationships as well
as healthy eating habits. Parents can set an example for the rest
of the family.
2. Leave enough time to eat an unhurried,
healthy breakfast. Of course, this means you have to go to bed in
time to get enough rest before you wake up. Exercise during the day
can help make you feel tired at night so you can go to sleep.
3. Drink milk at every meal. Offer skim for
anyone over 2, 2 percent for ages 1-2. Studies have shown drinking
milk at mealtime decreases the amount of calories you consume.
4. Drink water at each meal; make sure water is
available throughout the day. Drinking water can give you the
feeling of fullness earlier.
5. Spread food thinly over the plate or use
smaller plates. The volume of food makes you feel satisfied, not
the caloric density.
6. Chew food quietly and thoroughly. It's not
only polite, it allows you to eat more slowly, avoiding
7. Encourage conversation; keep the TV off.
Participating in family dialogue encourages more leisurely
8. Offer second helpings only 20 minutes after
a meal starts. This provides time for the "I'm full" message to get
to the brain.
9. Don't make special meals for picky eaters
unless allergies or other medical conditions need to be considered.
Children's internal hunger drive ensures they'll get enough to eat
10. Avoid fast foods as much as possible. But
if you must partake, skip soft drinks and fried foods.
11. Avoid refined sugar and deep-fried foods.
Deep frying adds fat and calories; sugar triggers insulin
12. Eat fresh vegetables and fruits and
unprocessed, high-fiber foods. Avoid foods labeled as "instant,"
"pre-made," "refined," "bleached."
"Whether or not your child is overweight, these commandments
will nudge him or her-and your whole family-down the road toward
fitness," Andersen says. "Parents need to take charge of their
children's nutrition. They need you to engage them in lifestyle
changes that will make everyone healthier."
That's just what Simental did for Javier.
"I told Javier his health is in his hands, mom and dad can't
always be there," she says. Since he's taken on the responsibility
for his health, he has lost weight and feels better.
Javier says he's proud of himself.
"Being more healthy and losing weight hasn't really been hard to
do. I just watch what I eat and how much. I don't have any more
second helpings and I am on a swimming team now. I go outside
more-I used to stay inside and watch TV, but now I climb trees,
ride my bike and skateboard. I feel stronger now and I have more
Karen Ross is a freelance writer and mother of two sons who
taught her how to eat healthier; they generally follow all 12
commandments of eating.
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