A Parent’s Role In Preventing Childhood Obesity: 5 Important Ways

This post is contributed by Toki of RocktheBabyBump.com

Parents are in a position to help their children establish and maintain good health and fitness habits that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

During pregnancy, a woman’s mindset on health and fitness begins impacting the growing baby in her womb.

By becoming more mindful of your eating habits and maintaining a regular fitness routine, you can encourage your children to  seek out a fit and healthy lifestyle, which will help them to avoid many of the obesity-related diseases that can be developed from a poor diet and lack of exercise.

The Outcome…

Obesity-related heart disease is a sad reality that affects many children and young adults.

According to the IDEA Fitness Journal, children as young as eight are now showing signs of heart disease. This should not be happening!

A 2015 study that analyzed MRI scans of obese children, found that the obese children had 27% more mass and 12% more thickness in their left ventricle than what is considered healthy for children.

These two percentages are signs of heart disease.

The study also found that forty percent of the obese children also had concentric hypertrophy, which is a condition in which the heart’s walls have thickened, which impairs the heart’s ability to pump blood to the body. 

The researchers warn parents to help their children maintain a healthy weight to protect their hearts from the heart-harming effects of obesity.

Obesity is a very real problem in our modern world, but it can be reversed with the proper tactics.

childhood obesity

How You Can Help Prevent This…

You can begin preventing childhood obesity during pregnancy by eating healthfully, staying fit and watching your prenatal weight.

You can give your baby a head-start in expecting a healthy lifestyle outside the womb.

Whether you’re pregnant or not, here are some ways you can make health and fitness a priority for your children.

1) Start in the Kitchen 

Not only does research show that families who eat meals together are more bonded, it is also known that taking time to prepare your own meals makes you think more seriously about what is being served at your dinner table.

When you’re in control of the ingredients of a meal, you have the power to make better food choices for your family. A great Paleo cookbook I use for my 2 little girls is “Against All Grains” by Danielle Walker.

Physical activity is important in preventing obesity, but making proper food choices can make an even more significant impact.

Avoiding a preponderance of restaurant food and fast food options while pregnant can also help you to stay healthy and prepare you for a wellness-minded lifestyle after your baby is born.

If you keep a job throughout your pregnancy, take steps to prepare your meals at home, making an effort to include foods with a good balance of protein from chicken, fish, nuts, and eggs, and fiber from fruit and vegetables.

And also you make sure you avoid these foods when you are pregnant!

2) Encourage Fitness as a Mindset

kids playing basketball

Families that are involved in sporting activities are more likely to seek out fitness as part of their daily lives.

You can encourage fitness as a mindset by taking the opportunity to go on family walks, hikes, and bike rides. By living an active lifestyle yourself, you can instill in your children the importance of physical activity from a young age.

They may not understand the link between health and movement at first, but they will grow to remember your example if you are consistent.

Fitness should become part of your mindset as early as pregnancy.

If you understand the benefits of keeping your body active while there’s a bun in the oven, you’ll be much more likely to keep a solid fitness routine through all three trimesters.

Every trimester is different: you’re likely to deal with differing levels of fatigue, swelling, soreness, confidence, and motivation.

Strangely enough, keeping fit through these barriers can actually help you to have more energy, reduce swelling (due to an increase in circulation), alleviate soreness, boost confidence, and increase your motivation to keep moving.

Be prepared to adjust your workout plan depending on your energy level and don’t be afraid to give yourself a much-needed break.

Taking steps to ensure that you don’t gain too much weight during pregnancy can prevent unnecessary fat accumulation in your unborn child.

When you make fitness part of your everyday life, your children will take notice.

Start implementing a fit mindset as early as pregnancy, and maintaining those active habits will become easier as you watch your children grow outside the womb.

3) Revise Your Grocery List

We all have certain things on our grocery list that we’re used to buying: that favorite cereal, cases of soda, fruit juice… but when you’re raising or preparing to raise a family, it’s a good idea to take stock of whether or not your weekly grocery shopping habits will help your family live a more healthful life.

It’s a great responsibility to buy food for a child.

Start by weeding out the grocery items you know contain high amounts of sugar and unnatural fat.

Beverages such as sodas contain a high calorie count without any nutritional value and processed foods such as fruit snacks and pre-made lunch meals are likely to contain a great deal of sugar, empty calories, and sodium.

Instead of reaching for sodas and processed foods, make an effort to fuel your family with fresh fruit, vegetables, and lean protein.

Try making your own sandwiches rather than buying pre-made lunches, offering your kids fruit popsicles made at home with just pureed fruit, and picking up fiber-rich foods like oats to serve with agave or honey for a sweet breakfast.

Pregnancy cravings are notorious for taking over when you’re browsing the aisles of a grocery store.

By feeding your body the nutrition it needs on a regular basis, you can help to prevent the onslaught of pregnancy cravings that may not be so healthful for you or your baby.

Keep a steady, balanced diet of natural foods and complex carbohydrates so that hunger doesn’t strike when you’re just passing the cookie aisle at the grocery store.

4) Talk About It

Communication is important when it comes to raising kids.

By talking about fitness and health, you can increase your child’s understanding of just why you live the way you do.

Make sure they understand that being fit and eating well is a choice they can continue to make for the rest of their lives, which will allow them to reap the benefits of taking care of their bodies and avoiding obesity-related diseases.

While pregnant, talk with other women about how maintaining a fit lifestyle can make a positive impact on your families.

With all the information that constantly circulates about how to do right by the baby in your womb, take time to do your research and adjust your fitness and eating habits to provide the best opportunity for your baby’s growth and development.

Encourage other moms and moms-to-be to take hold of the benefits of mindful movement and consumption habits by opening conversation to the subject of family wellness.

5) Be Mindful of Your Habits

Habits are powerful.

Whatever habits you have established over time are likely to remain part of your life until you do something to change them. Good health habits are just as powerful as negative health habits.

Children learn from what they see their parents routinely do.

How you snack, what you add to your coffee or tea, how you face stressful challenges, and what you do to unwind are all being watched by your child.

For the good of your children and your family, start taking note of your habits.

Is there anything you could be quitting?

Bad habits can range in scope from becoming overly-stressed during tax season to over-doing it on the alcohol to cope with a rough day.

If you find yourself reaching for junk food when you need to unwind, shift your focus.

Food is a wonderful comfort, but its consumption should entail real food made at home and should be balanced by physical activity.

Pregnancy is an important time to start becoming more mindful of your habits.

According to Healthline, mothers who consume alcohol or take illegal drugs during pregnancy are more likely to give birth to a child with heart defects such as congenital heart disease (CHD).

CHD in babies can also be caused by such things as certain prescription drugs, a viral infection during the first trimester, and high blood sugar levels.

Parents have the power to help prevent childhood obesity and the diseases it can cause.

By taking a step back from your family’s eating habits and making efforts to eat home-cooked meals on a regular basis, you can help ensure your children view food not only as a source of fuel, but as a way to bond with family around the dinner table.

Encouraging a fit mindset in your kids begins with enjoying physical activity together by going for walks and hikes.

By analyzing your grocery list and cutting out junk foods and empty carbs, you can detox your pantry and make sure you’re providing only nutritious food for your family.

Talking about fitness and health with your kids will help to increase their understanding of the gift of wellness and their part in maintaining their own health.

Finally, taking stock of your own personal habits can also have an impact on the way your child views health and fitness.

If you provide a good example for your children, they will be more likely to implement a fit and healthy lifestyle from an early age and throughout their lives.

Toki is a working mom of 2 girls under 2 years old (whoosh) and blogs over at RockTheBabyBump.com. She always says, mothering will always involve long hours, heavy physical work and the type of worry that could bring down an elephant if put into a dart gun. I’m here to cultivate a sense of inner support to calm our mini little storms…


Image credits: Childhood obesity concept Shutterstock Basketball Shutterstock

5 thoughts on “A Parent’s Role In Preventing Childhood Obesity: 5 Important Ways”

  1. I think encouraging clean eating by setting example from early age, and showing your child that you exercise will allow them to develop a healthy mindset. Everything in moderation, especially as I wasn’t allowed candy until I was about 10 years old!

  2. Thank you for the in depth article. This was so helpful especially how difficult it is trying to change your groceries when your kids are used to a specific type of diet.

  3. I think it is an adjustment seeing as you have spent so long trying to get the scale down and keep it there. Keeping in mind what is good for the baby will certainly help you eat properly, as well as listening to your doc. You are doing great!

  4. I just used one of those at-home pregnancy tests and it came back positive. My husband and I are really excited at the prospect of having our own little baby. I like your point about how important it is to schedule an appointment with your OBGYN as soon as possible. As you mentioned, the faster we see a doctor, the faster we’ll be on track to a healthy and safe pregnancy.
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