Question – There is definitely a genetic component to obesity in my family as all of my siblings and most of our children are obese. What can we do as a family to lessen this risk, especially with children at home?
The best thing you can do is try and live the change that you want your family to also exhibit. Bring healthier foods into the house, like a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds, and whole grains. Is your family resistant to trying some of these foods? That’s okay, it takes time. After people are exposed to new foods it may take them awhile. The best way to get your kids or spouse to try something new is to see you enjoying it. Children often have to be exposed to a new food 10-20+ times before acceptance.
No one wants to be forced to do anything, but gentle encouragement to try one bite of a food is a great alternative. When people see a family member making positive changes in the foods they are eating and the activities they are doing and they witness how much better that individual feels, looks, and acts after several weeks and months of making those changes, that is is the best example you can give to positively effect your family. With regards to young children, there are several areas that most American families need to work on.
- It is important for children to see adults enjoying healthy foods, but occasionally having other things like ice cream or chips in moderation too. It is important to show children how to eat “occasional” foods like desserts and other snacks in moderation with fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
- Another area to work on, especially with children is not forcing kids or grand-kids to eat everything on their plate. By making kids eat everything, we are teaching them to not listen to their own hunger/fullness cues. If you have a child like mine, that announces they are done eating with half their food still remaining and then states they are hungry 30 minutes or an hour after dinner, simply keep their plate in the fridge and warm it up if needed. Tell them that if they are hungry they need to finish what they served themselves at dinner first. I’m not going to lie, this can turn into a small meltdown the first few times you implement it, but after being consistent and not giving in, I am happy to report that my 2 year old knows what to expect and the meltdowns. . . while they still occasionally happen, are far less.
- If dessert is being served, serve a small portion with the rest of dinner so that you don’t put that focus on desserts as being more important than the rest of the meal. When we tell children, “finish your vegetables so you can have dessert,” we are essentially saying that the dessert is the reward for the rest of the meal. While this may seem harmless, it is simple actions like this, taught early on that make us value desserts and other snack foods more than the other items on our plate. Kids will go for the dessert frequently if that is served with the rest of the meal but they also will eat some of those vegetables and some of the main dish as well. Also, you don’t need to give them a huge piece of cake. You can give them a small piece while also serving steamed broccoli and meatloaf or potato.
- Another area to work on is not rewarding yourself or a loved one with food. If your child earned an A on their report card, take them to a movie or to the zoo or buy a new toy instead of taking them to get ice-cream.
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