September is National Childhood Obesity Month and in honor of the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) mission to reduce childhood obesity, we’re dedicating a post to divorced (and single) parents who want to help their kids make healthier choices, even if they can’t be with them 24/7 because they share parenting time with their former spouses.
Before we dive into co-parenting tips, let’s examine the magnitude of the problem. According to the CDC one out of five children in the United States are obese. Not only do obese children have a higher risk of chronic health problems, such as joint problems, asthma, sleep apnea, and Type 2 diabetes, they are at an increased risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and high cholesterol.
What all parents need to know:
- Obese children are at a high risk of bullying, depression and low self-esteem.
- Obese children have a high risk of being obese as adults. This can lead to a poor quality of life and mental health problems. No parent wants that for their child.
- Adult obesity is linked to a higher risk of cancer.
What causes childhood obesity?
- A lack of sleep,
- A lack of physical activity,
- Sugar and white flour,
- Processed foods (e.g. cakes, cookies, chips, crackers, microwave dinners),
- Sugary drinks and sodas,
- Fast food,
- A lack of “whole foods” in the diet. Meaning, foods in their natural state, such as produce, nuts, seeds, and unprocessed meats,
- A high-carbohydrate diet (a lot of flour, potatoes, and rice),
- A lack of access to nutrient-dense foods,
- Direct access to high-sugar, processed foods, and
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG) in the diet. MSG is a flavor enhancer that’s in a lot of crackers, chips, soups and salad dressings that leads to over-eating.
Incorporating the Solutions
If your child is overweight and you’re divorced, all hope is not lost. There is a LOT that you can do to help your child eat better, get more physical activity and make healthier choices when you’re not around. Here’s how to start implementing solutions:
- Educate yourself on eating a “clean” lifestyle. Learn about heart-healthy diets, such as Paleo, Keto, and Whole30.
- At your home, lead by example. Eliminate processed foods and sugar from your kitchen and offer your child healthy foods. Not only will your child be healthier, you may lose weight in the process!
- Get your former spouse on board. If you meet resistance at first, if your former spouse sees your personal progress, it may inspire him or her to make some serious changes in the food they stock in the fridge and pantry.
- Educate your child about the importance of eating a “real food” diet and help him or her make better choices.
- Help your child get more physical activity by signing them up for sports or extracurricular activities. Take walks together, and on weekends enjoy physical activities like hiking, biking, or swimming instead of playing video games or watching hours of TV.
- Instead of feeding your child school breakfasts and lunches, make them healthy, protein-filled breakfasts and lunches with fresh fruits and veggies. Have your child help by making them too!
- For a child 9 and over, have him or her help you plan healthy meals. Get them involved in finding recipes, grocery shopping, and prepping. Make it fun!
- If you’re having trouble getting your former spouse on board, take your child to a nutritionist and have them help you and your spouse create a healthy eating and exercising plan for your child. Then, take the nutritionist’s advice.
To learn more about Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, click here.