One American child in every three is overweight or obese, and that number is increasing - in fact, the rate of obesity in American children has more than doubled in the past two decades. And with this weight gain come health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.
The source of these problems is no secret. Children at a young age are active but by the time they reach adolescence, two-thirds of them are not active enough. And the snack foods kids are eating in increasing quantities are heavy with fat and carbohydrates and light in nutritional value.
So how do you keep your children fit and eating right? We've put together some tips to help you: a healthy food converter, to help you get them away from junk food painlessly; some healthy no-cook snacks for kids, since kids will always snack; and some exercise ideas, to give them non-boring ways of staying fit.
- Take the stairs
- Go for a walk after supper
- Ride your bike to school
- Help mow the lawn or plant flowers
- Dance to your favorite music (and sing out loud!)
- Go swimming with a friend
- Play soccer, baseball or hockey
- Have picnics outside with friends
- Share healthy snacks!
Simple yet creative no-cook snacks for kids
Raw veggies and fruit cut into chunks and placed on skewers.
Dip peeled bananas (fresh or frozen) into low-fat yogurt; roll in crushed low-fat breakfast cereal.
Blend ½ cup low-fat yogurt with ½ cup fresh fruit juice.
Make cheese or peanut butter sandwiches on whole-grain bread. Use cookie cutters to make hearts, stars, or favorite animals.
Good ol' "ants on a log":
Spread celery or carrot sticks with peanut butter and raisins.
Remember the "moderation" rule when choosing snacks: it's OK to eat your favorite foods in moderation, but make sure they're not replacing or adding to regular well-balanced meals.
For more information on healthy eating and exercise for children, read Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating and Canada's Physical Activity Guide.
Healthy alternatives to junk food
Healthy food can taste great too! Help your kids choose healthy snacks by stocking up on alternatives to junk food. Use the following table to find tasty snacks low in fat and high in vitamins and minerals:
|Common Snack Choices
|½ cup regular vanilla ice cream
270 calories 18 g fat
|½ cup low-fat vanilla yogurt (good for milk-shakes
194 calories 3 g fat
|12 potato chips
159 calories 11 g fat
|1 cup pretzels or popcorn (moderate amounts of
margarine and salt), mixed nuts (in moderation)
110 calories 1 g fat
|1 cup high-sugar breakfast cereal
118 calories 2g fat
|1 cup bran or oat cereal with dried fruit
100 calories 1 g fat
|1 doughnut (filled or flavoured)
280 calories 12g fat
|1 low-fat bran muffin with dried fruit, nuts or berries
112 calories 5g fat
|1 cup soda pop, fruit juice-box, or flavoured drink
150 calories 0g fat
|1 cup sugar-free Kool-Aid or sparkling natural fruit juice
12 calories 0g fat
|French fries (medium serving size)
450 calories 22g fat
|10 large oven-baked fries or grilled or BBQ'd yam or
potato slices (spread with olive oil first)
110 calories 4g fat
|1 chocolate bar or chocolate granola bar
240 calories 13g fat
|1 oatmeal raisin cookie or fig square
90 calories 3g fat
* Calories and fat content are based on average values for the food types and portions indicated.