Kids learn habits while they’re small that persist through adulthood – when kids are big! Parents and child care providers are key leaders in helping Kansas kids build lifelong healthy habits. By making a few key changes related to food, drinks and activity, parents and educators can have a big impact on the health of Kansas kids.
Adults and kids of all sizes can benefit from good nutrition and activity habits, but changes are needed because a growing number of Kansans of all ages are overweight or obese. These serious health problems start early – 20% of children ages 2-5 in the U.S. are already overweight or obese, according to the Institute of Medicine.
Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to suffer health, social and educational challenges than their healthy-weight peers. Additionally, people who are overweight or obese as children are more likely to be obese as adults. Early environments – like child care and early education programs – play a crucial role in shaping behaviors and habits for life.
Small Changes, Big Impact
To help maximize the impact of a few changes, we’ve identified four top priorities based on research and collaboration with Kansas experts:
- Better Beverages
- Unplug Under 2
- Breastfeeding Benefits and
- Right Rewards.
These are simple changes that are designed to work for families and child care programs – from small family day care homes to big child care centers.
Check out the blog over the next few weeks to learn about 4 important changes that can have a big impact!
While food choices get a lot of attention, it’s important to remember that beverages also play a big role in children’s nutrition and health. Children and adults get a lot of calories from sugary beverages like soda pop, juice drinks, and sports drinks, but water is the best beverage for keeping kids older than age 1 hydrated. Calories from sugary drinks don’t satisfy hunger like calories from food. And while some sweet drinks (like diet soda) don’t have calories, they make you crave sweet foods and ultimately consume more calories. Children should be encouraged to drink water or low-fat milk instead of sugary drinks.
Having too many sugar-sweetened drinks contributes to a variety of health problems for kids – from dental cavities to heart disease and high blood pressure. If you currently drink or serve sweet drinks a lot, start by replacing one or two sweet drinks each day with a better beverage, or skipping all sweet drinks just one day a week. Low-fat milk and water are great for kids. To make water more fun, add some fruit, fresh or frozen, for flavor.
Small changes for Better Beverages:
- Serve milk with meals, water all the time
- Make water accessible to kids – have a small pitcher or water bottles that kids can reach throughout the day without asking
This guest post was written by Hilary Gee, Kansas Action for Children
How do you keep water as the beverage of choice in your family? Share your tips in the comments!