Happy July 4th! There’s no better way to say “Thanks!” to America than by doing a little something to end our obesity epidemic, starting with our own families. Here’s a collection of suggestions.
Reduce salt intake
An Australian study of 4,000 children found that the more salt they ate, the more sugary drinks they consumed. Cut down on the usual suspects like potato chips and fries, as well as less obvious harborers of sodium such as hot dogs, cold cuts, and cheese.
Replace the dishes
In Philadelphia, a study of first-graders showed that children going through the lunch line with big plates will serve themselves more food, amounting to twice as many calories, as the same children will dish out for themselves if provided with smaller plates.
Cornell University researchers make this suggestion:
Change your dishware to better accommodate your dining needs. If your goal is to eat less, select plates that have high contrast with what you plan to serve for dinner. Want to eat more greens? Try serving them on a green plate!
Other scientists are proponents of the red plate. Why?
The color red elicits avoidance motivation across contexts…. red functions as a subtle stop signal that works outside of focused awareness and thereby reduces incidental food and drink intake…. In line with our hypothesis, participants drank less from a red labeled cup than from a blue labeled cup, and ate less snack food from a red plate than from a blue or white plate.
Watch your language
Forget about the old “clean your plate” concept and concentrate on helping kids learn to take smaller portions and to be aware of when they’ve had enough. Remember that food shouldn’t be used as a reward, pacifier, or bribe. When discussing the importance of good everyday habits with kids, frame it as a way of being healthy, not as the road to looking a certain way.
Be the change you want to see
One of the very most important things a parent can do is set a good example. The power of example is much stronger than any words. Find activities the family can do together — bike, hike, swim, walk — and encourage kids to explore the possibilities until they find a sport or activity that gets them joyously moving.
Live in an affluent neighborhood
For most of us, file this under “long-term goal.” University of Washington researchers found that neighborhood property values predict local obesity rates better than income or education. Data collected in Seattle showed that fancy real estate implies about a 5% obesity rate, while impoverished neighborhoods have an obesity rate around 30%.
Back a winning team
French researchers studied Americans living in cities with National Football League teams, and found that we consume more saturated fat and more total calories on the day after a home team loss. Never mind football, this simple tip can help for July 4: “Make chili with ground turkey or substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream and queso in dips.”
Don’t drown in remorse
And if the holiday celebration gets out of hand, don’t stress about it, recommends the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center. But do make it a high priority to form — and stick to — good eating habits as part of the everyday routine.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Childhood Obesity: Kids Crave Salt and Sugary Drinks,” ClevelandClinic.org, 03/12/13
Source: “A Simple Way to Fight Childhood Obesity,” TheSportDigest.com, 04/12/13
Source: “What’s With the Color of Your Plate?” Cornell.edu, 2012
Source: “Want to eat less snack food? Use a red plate,” DiscoverMagazine.com, 09/16/13
Source: “Tips to Combat Childhood Obesity,” TheCellGym.com, 04/20/13
Source: “ZIP Codes And Property Values Predict Obesity Rates,” ScienceDaily.com, 08/30/07
Source: “Study: NFL Fans Binge Eat if Team Loses,” NBCNews.com, 01/31/14
Source: “Rules of thumb: Three simple ideas for overcoming childhood obesity,” ScienceDaily.com, 05/01/14
Image by lizwest