Outrageous portion sizes, frequent drive through meals, increased snacking, less walking or biking to school, and less opportunity to participate in gym class or recess are all factors contributing to weight gain. To get control of this issue, parents must become role models for their children in leading a healthy lifestyle. Parents should take computers, TVs, and video games out of the bedroom and limit all screen time to 1 hour after school (adolescents are currently spending an average of 7.5 hrs a day behind some type of screen). Offer only milk, water, or low to no-calorie beverages with meals and snacks. Sodas, juice, and even sports drinks are filled with empty calories and loads of sugar. Limit fast food to a once a month "treat," and take advantage of newly offered nutritious side options such as fruit instead of fries. And just like adults, kids need 30- 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Make it a family effort and take a walk after dinner, go roller-blading, swimming, or play catch in the yard.
Let's Move! is an initiative launched by the First Lady Michelle Obama which focuses on five goals: to arm parents with information to support healthy choices at home, make sure that every child has access to healthy affordable food, help kids to become more physically active, and provide healthier food choices at school. In accordance with the initiative, President Barack Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum creating the first-ever Task Force on Childhood Obesity to develop a national action plan and maximize federal resources to achieve those five goals.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, were released by the USDA and emphasize three major goals for Americans:
• Balance calories with physical activity to manage weight
• Consume more of certain foods and nutrients such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood
• Consume fewer foods with sodium (salt), saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, and refined grains
The Guidelines also include 23 key recommendations for the general population. To help achieve these goals, the USDA has implemented an interactive user-friendly website (choosemyplate.gov) to help consumers identify what they're eating now and what changes can be made to decrease portion sizes, eat and drink fewer empty calories, and focus on nutrient dense foods the body needs for fuel.
There are new fad diets and weight loss pills hitting the market on a daily basis trying to capitalize on consumers looking for a "quick fix" or an "easier" way to lose weight. Weight loss achieved by these methods does not last, and can lead to yo-yo dieting and eventually more weight gain. The only proven weight loss method is by making lasting lifestyle changes, which can be done by making one to two achievable goals each week. Fitness applications for smart phones (such as MyFitnessPal) are helpful for keeping a food and exercise diary on the go. The best resource for nutrition-related advice and counseling is a registered dietitian nutritionist. Make sure your chosen professional has this designation, not just a "certified nutritionist" who can get a certificate online in a matter of weeks.