Childhood Obesity in Alabama: A problem Moms can fix with these practical tips

According to a recent Birmingham News article, 36% of children in Alabama (ages 10-17) are obese.  While the editorial staff expressed surprise, Birmingham Moms are not.  Whether it is in our home or one of the many family venues in Birmingham, we see this statistic everywhere.    But, here’s the good news – Moms can fix this problem.  The federal deficit, oil spills and the Jefferson County bankruptcy are out of our control but children….. we’ve got this one.

Here are 10 practical ideas for your family that you can implement today.

(1)    No soda (or as we say in the South, Coke).  This requires Mom’s mental energy to implement a new rule but water rules the day.   To gain buy-in from the kids, keep a tally of the money you save by leaving the Cokes behind and allow the kids or family to purchase a prize at the end of a month, or even a week if the short term reward is helpful.

(2)    Reduce the amount of ‘party’ food. Food is EVERYWHERE, literally.  Today, adults (really Moms) throw parties and bring food to every event, for any reason.  Just Say No and, at least, before including food at the next event – ask, “will the children be hungry?”

(3)    Teach children to play active games. Growing up, we automatically played games like hide and seek or freeze tag but my children did not know these games until THIS summer (apparently I needed to teach them).  Given the choice, kids choose active play – this is SO easy.  Just teach them how to play.

(4)    Family Olympics. Who can jump the furthest? Fastest sprint across the front yard. Who can do the most pushups in 2 minutes and then follow it with 2 minutes of jumping jacks.   Let the kids decide on the races, limit it to 30 minutes so that you will actually do this regularly.

(5)    Dance Party (nightly) – turn on the radio or plug in the ipod and watch your children move.  It’s a great way for Mom to let loose also.  This is a great post-bath time activity for about 30 minutes.

(6)    Choose places that get your kids moving. Here are a few free or low-cost options. (1) Railroad Park (great place for a young child to ride a bike); (2) Ruffner Mountain Nature Center; (3) iJump or Pump It Up; (4) Swimming Pool; (5) Playground; (6) Zoo

(7)    Picnic.  During the summer, we pack a simple meal (sandwiches, carrot chips/dip, grapes and water bottles) and head to the pool.  The kids swim, eat and then swim again or similar scenario at a playground.  I figure that regardless of the meal the kids received good physical activity and probably ate less than they would at home.

(8)    Keep a stash of healthy snacks in your car (enabling you to avoid the unhealthy snack at a local venue or between events) .   This one is accomplished if I put it in the category of time or money-saving efforts (why does health get pushed to the bottom of the list during a busy week?)

(9)    Read food labels – Most literature says that we should teach our children to read labels, clearly these authors have not struggled through summer reading lists in a while.  But, Moms should revisit these labels on food products.  Most prepackaged items will disgust you enough to leave them on the shelf.

(10) Eat at home. You know this one.