Never before has lunch been the focus of so much attention. But now, the American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that one in six kids is overweight and the Surgeon General has declared childhood obesity a national epidemic.
School lunches are in the spotlight and all those experts are waving a big red flag out to parents that we need to help our kids pack a good lunch or choose the right foods at school and avoid drinks with lots of sugar.
Nutrition researcher Dr. Bob Murray says that parents actually train their children to prefer the taste of soft drinks to water or milk and as a result their nutrition suffers.
Along with healthy eating habits, Dr. Murray says it's important to limit TV time and encourage outdoor play time. The bottom line for parents, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, is a child who is overweight at the age of 10 has an 80% chance of being obese as an adult, so the habits they form now can last a lifetime.
Dr. Murray says you can't expect kids to embrace your healthy eating right away, especially if they've grown up on junk food. One tip to help them ease into better eating patterns is to take them grocery shopping with you and let them help pick out fruits, vegetables, and other healthy snacks they may like.
If they are resisting the produce section, try offering this deal -- if they eat a veggie, like carrots, they can pick out a dip, like ranch dressing to eat with them.
Here are some other helpful tips to encourage healthy eating behaviors in children:
While the school lunch may be the center of jokes when it comes to taste, it has improved its nutrition rating. Recent studies have shown the children who participate in the National School Lunch Program consume twice the servings of fruits and vegetables and eat greater amounts of grains and dairy products.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says along with preventing children from becoming obese, it's important to avoid stigmatizing youngsters who already are overweight. The focus for all children should be on healthy lifestyles. The American Academy of Pediatrics is now recommending pediatricians measure body mass index during a child's yearly check-up.