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Feature Article Your Positive Example Can Help Prevent Childhood Obesity

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Whether you are Mom or Dad doing the weekly grocery shopping, or a grandparent taking a grandchild on a hike this summer, leading by example can help prevent childhood obesity. 

“As a pediatrician, I see the negative effects of childhood obesity every day. And I’m convinced the solution starts with parents setting the examples that they want their kids to follow,” said Dana Kosmala, DO, with  Samaritan Lebanon Health Center – Pediatrics.

Both parent and child need to take ownership, but the parent has the ultimate responsibility. Parents decide what foods are in the cabinet and on the dinner table. Yes, you can let your kids be kids, but even early on in their development, parents can teach their children how to make good choices so they may have a longer, healthier, and happier life.  

With one-third of American children now overweight or obese, Dr. Kosmala offers these tips for preventing childhood obesity:

  1. Make healthy nutrition choices. It starts with making healthy choices during pregnancy. The foods that a pregnant mother eats affect the health and development of the baby. Good choices continue once the baby is born: Breastfeeding or formula feeding provides most of the nutrition your baby needs.

    Once it’s time to start introducing new foods, parents should consider what they are giving their child, even when it comes to what they drink. Water and milk are good choices for proper hydration and development. There is no nutritional value to soda and little to no nutritional value in juice. Even 100-percent juice has empty calories that come from its sugar content.

    Continue on this path of smart choices as your child gets older. Once school-age children have an interest in what you’re cooking or what they are eating, take them to the store to show them the types of healthy foods you choose for them. Focus on the produce department and other nutritious foods while avoiding the aisles with junk foods.

    Here in the Willamette Valley, we are fortunate enough to have locally grown produce available most of the year. Skipping processed foods and eating food the way it’s grown is always a better choice. No need for dipping sauces.

    When it comes to protein, it doesn’t always have to mean meat. Beans and rice are a good source of protein and fiber whether or not you are on a budget. It may surprise you that a lunch of beans, rice and a salad using a squeezed lime for dressing costs a little more than one dollar.

  2. Limit screen time. TVs and smart phones don’t have to be thrown away, just used responsibly. A great resource put out by the American Academy of Pediatrics is healthychildren.org. This website will help you develop a reasonable screen time plan that works for your family. A limited amount of screen time can also be used as a reward system.

  3. Play outdoors. Get your kids outside! We’re in the best months of the year for outdoor physical activity, whether it’s organized sports, playing catch in the backyard or going for a hike.       

Check out these great family-friendly hikes in your area:

  • Benton County: McDonald Forest, just west of Corvallis
  • Lincoln County: Drift Creek Falls Trail, between Salem and Lincoln City
  • Linn County: McDowell Creek Falls, between Lebanon and Sweet Home

Teaching your children, or grandchildren, to make good choices now could mean the difference between good health and the lifelong complications of heart disease or diabetes later in life.

Remember, Dr. Kosmala said, “Smile daily, have a good laugh and tell your children you love them unconditionally.”

Samaritan is involved with several initiatives to improve children’s health:
The Culinary Health Education & Fitness (C.H.E.F.) program promotes nutrition and healthy living in Lincoln, east Linn and rural Benton counties.  Samaritan Pediatrics in Corvallis also offers Healthy Heroes, a five-week class for kids that promotes nutrition and well-being.