Setting A Good Dietary Example

Yu Shing Ting
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Friday - October 01, 2008
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In a recent poll by, more than half of the parents surveyed say their child exercises for an hour or less each day, and nearly nine of every 10 people eat fast food one to two times a week.

Also, according to general healthcare standards based on age, height and weight, one in five of the surveyed parents have children who are considered over-weight or at risk for being over-weight.

In an effort to help parents with their nutrition knowledge and to encourage them to get their children to be more physically active, Disney and Kaiser Permanente have teamed up to launch a new healthy living feature on

Here, parents will find simple solutions and ideas to make beneficial lifestyle changes. Features include:

* Tips on simplifying best nutrition practices for parents.

* Ideas on making healthy eating and exercising manageable for parents.

* Articles and videos from health and nutrition experts.

* Healthy recipes the whole family can enjoy.

* A Healthy Families game widget, Bag It Right, which allows users to test their healthy food knowledge.

“Over a number of years, the numbers (on overweight and obese children) have been increasing,” notes Dr. Lance Shirai, a pediatric cardiologist at Kaiser Permanente. “I think the cause comes from environmental issues, including the types of food we eat, how much we eat, the inactivity of our kids (they’re watching more TV and playing more video games and getting out less to play), and genetics has some thing to do with it, too.”

Shirai also lists fast food as a cause to the child obesity problem, noting that in Hawaii especially, with the high cost of living and most families consisting of two working parents, it’s very easy to turn to fast food.

“Parents have to really make a commitment to eat more at home and look at the things they’re feeding their kids,” says Shirai. “They really need to change the home nutrition environment. And one of the things we recommend is to limit the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda and juice drinks. Here in Hawaii, I see parents give their children canned juice and think it’s juice. But it’s not really juice, it’s sugared water.”

Some good lifestyle changes and healthy eating habits to consider, according to Shirai:

* Eat breakfast every day.

* Encourage family meals where the TV is turned off and you sit down at a table and eat together.

* Limit portion size.

* Limit screen-time activities, such as TV. “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you limit it to two hours or less a day,” says Shirai. “I think that’s kind of generous. I think it should be one hour or less for children of all ages.”

* Increase consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

* Offer healthier options in the house.

* When eating out, choose healthier options on the menu.

OK, so it’s probably safe to say that most of the things mentioned above are things that most of us already know.

But why do so many of us not do it? The answer is simple: It’s easy to be lazy. And who can resist hot, fresh-out-of-the-cooking-oil french fries and an ice-cold Coke?

And, I confess, I eat out more than I do at home; and if I am at home, I eat with the TV on.

But now that I’m a mom, I’m realizing that how I eat affects not only myself, but my baby as well. Not only because I’m still nursing, but more importantly because my baby looks up to me.

It’s easy to tell a stranger that he or she needs to cut out the junk food and start exercising. And if they choose not to, it’s not too difficult to accept that it’s their choice and at least you said something.

However, if I’m going to try to preach this to my child, then I’m going to have to do it myself, too. Not only is it my responsibility but also because if I don’t, you know I’ll be getting that “Why, you don’t do it” response, which is simply unacceptable.

“It’s important for parents to try to model good lifestyle habits, good dietary habits and keeping an active lifestyle,” says Shirai. “And you should start at an early age because as the child gets older, it’s harder to enforce what they do, the things they eat and how active they are.

“And everyone in the household has to change, which is hard because Mom may see it as a problem, but Dad and Grandma may not see it as a problem.”

While the solution needs to start in the home, Shirai adds that it also has to be a community effort by making neighborhoods more friendly for walking, bike riding and going to the park.

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