Most fitness websites, articles, and posts are focused on the 25-59 age demographic, as clearly this is the group that cares (or worries) the most about their bodies. But I think we need to pay a little more attention to the “befores” and “afters” if we are to truly reduce the rampant obesity that plagues America for our future generations
First off we’ve got to teach the current (and future) generation of kids to move more, eat better, and specifically make fitness an equal priority to school work and time spent just being a kid. Get them off their electronics and using their muscles, training their cardiovascular systems, and keeping circulation and metabolisms running on high.
Next however, we need to tend to our current crop of seniors (60-85+). For most people in this age rage, fitness was probably not a priority during their youth, and therefore the taste for it, as well as the ability to embrace it, is quite low. However, if we modify our approach to fitness for seniors we can still give them improvements to their deteriorating health and bodies while not trying to turn them into fitness addicts – which they’re never going to be. If we, the 25-59-ers make it our priority to get our parents/grandparents moving and staying active, we will show all generations that physical age can have fewer boundaries than previously set. (Not to mention that keeping the body active stimulates the brain and keeps it active too!)
While many fitness organizations or programs do focus on kids or seniors, there still isn’t enough enticing options to keep those that are young and easily distracted, or old and easily deterred from continuing on fitness as a priority. Sadly schools throughout the U.S. have dropped standard P.E. programs due to budget cutbacks, and senior centers are fewer and less populated, especially outside of major cities.
So what I suggest is that each family design a weekly program or routine for everyone in the family, from 2 to 80. Include as many generations together as possible. Make fitness diverse, fun, satisfying, and easy to do and everyone will keep coming back for more. For kids, make it a game; or a group challenge; or create personal best goal chart.
For the grandfolk, take it slow, but always add a little more to each day/week/month. Include incentives that work for them like a daily/weekly walk to update them on family affairs or discuss current affairs. Take them on a picnic or to the movies while parking a little further away than normal, or conduct a chair workout, etc. If they simply can’t be made more mobile, stimulate their brains with jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, or get them telling stories of their youth that you can document for prosperity and family history.
As our year comes to a close, I charge all of you to think of ways to get your kids and/or your elderly parents more active, document their growth, and share it here. If it takes a village, let this “cosmic” village be the test ground to show that our next generations will be leaner, more active, and live longer than the previous ones.
Today I am getting back on my “nutrition for kids” soap-box to address a continuing trend of parents thinking it’s okay to give kids lemonade and 7-up (or any soda) with their meals. Every time we eat out with our daughter I see other kids getting lemonade or clear soda (7-up, Sprite) with their meals. At my daughter’s school every open-house, award ceremony or celebration includes cookies and 7-up or lemonade. I want to scream out “why are you offering them sugar and sugar? Don’t you know how bad that quantity of sugar is?”
If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I’m all about moderation, and that includes sugar. But I am astonished to see how little regard these two innocent-seeming liquids appear to have with parents.
Just on simple logic, I would think if you’re ordering high fat and carbs “kid-friendly” foods like mac n’ cheese, chicken fingers and fries, or pizza, that you’d opt for water to at least balance out these nutritionally void meals. Add into the equation that kids often get dessert after such a meal, and you’ve just given them plenty of sugar. But no, the world at large thinks nothing of sugar + sugar where kids are concerned.
Many parents and restaurants offer fruit juices as an option, thinking that these are healthier. Well, I’m here to tell you they’re not. Perhaps you need an in-your face assessment of what is really in these drinks?
8 oz of Lemonade (like Minute Maid) = 27 grms Sugar
8 oz of Orange Juice = 24 grms Sugar
8 oz of Apple Juice = 26 grms Sugar
8 oz of 7-Up/Sprit = 26 grms Sugar
8 oz of Coke = 26 grms Sugar
1 Capri Sun packet = 18 grms Sugar
8 oz Nesquik Chocolate milk = 29 grms Sugar
(Don’t forget, you often give them refills too!)
Now you might be saying “so what? What’s so bad about 26 grams of sugar?” Well, besides the fact that it offers no nutritional value, it can damage their metabolism, and increase their risk of obesity and type II diabetes, among other health issues (like mood swings and hormonal spikes). I’m not even touching upon the deadly high-fructose corn syrup issue (in sodas), or the quantity of sugars in a Jamba Juice or other seemingly “healthy” juices.
The American Heart Association has set guidelines for the limits of added sugar that kids should consume each day. (Added sugar means “refined sugar or sugar substitutes” as fruit and other foods contain natural sugars.) The amount of added sugar that a child should consume on a daily basis varies depending on the child’s age and caloric intake, but here’s their basic recommendation:
Preschoolers should limit added sugar to about 16 grams per day
Children ages 4 to 11 should limit added sugar to about 12 grams a day
Pre-teen and teens should not have more than 20 to 32 grams per day
Clearly you can see how one drink at lunch has already maxed out the quantity of added sugar your child consumes. Now factor in any desserts or sweet-treats they’ve consumed that day and you’ve easily overloaded their sensitive systems.
I was criticized repeatedly when my daughter was a baby because I didn’t give her any refined sugar until she was 2. No birthday cake, ice cream, candies, fruit yogurt, or fruit juice. I was called controlling, silly, and even, albeit jokingly, evil. My Father-In-Law asked once why I didn’t give my toddler apple juice. I replied that she had a bowl-full of apple slices in front of her and a bottle of water and once in her stomach she would have “apple juice.” (He didn’t find my sarcasm funny.) I did point out that this way she was getting fiber that is missing from filtered apple juice, but he’d already tuned me out.
The reality is that America loves it’s sugar and many well-meaning parents blindly fall into line with their children’s nutrition. But hopefully you’ll stare a little longer at the facts posted above, and at least think twice next time before giving your children that innocuous little beverage. Perhaps on another day I’ll bring up the issue of rampant use of sodium in America and how much of that harmful substance you and your children are consuming, but today my attack is on sugar. Have a sweet day!
I am very frustrated of late with the perspective most of our society has about children’s nutrition. It’s as if we are clueless as to what we put in their bodies, yet so many Mom’s micro-manage their own calories and food quality.
Restaurants routinely offer soda or lemonade as a drink included with the cost of the child’s meal. I see kids being served a large glass of Sprite at dinnertime as the parents are under the misunderstanding that clear soda is better for their kids than Cola (dark soda). Sugar is sugar and both contain as much as 17 spoonfuls — and in the case of Mountain Dew, there’s still caffeine even in a clear soda.
The other day at my daughter’s school awards ceremony (in the morning mind you) they offered chocolate chip cookies and lemonade as treats. My response of “sugar and sugar?” was met with offensive glares. I said I would have gladly paid for the purchase of water, but that fell on deaf ears. These are probably the parents who bought the concept Nutella tried to sell us that the chocolate spread was healthy for breakfast because it had nuts and milk in it.
My best friend recently informed me that Los Angeles Unified School District (the most screwed up school district ever) has made it mandatory that children have breakfast in their cafeterias during first period, noting that many households haven’t the money for food. As great as that sounds, they’re only offering the likes of processed and shrink wrapped pastries (sugar, fats and unhealthy carbs) or pizza rolls (sugar, fats and unhealthy carbs). Network television routinely touts statistics of our increasing percentage of childhood obesity then they cut to a McDonalds’ or Coke commercial. It’s all so frustrating!
Then there are the thousands of parents who claim there’s no time or money to make food at home and eat healthy. Well to those nay-sayers, I say: being short on time is no excuse for feeding your child (or yourself) a crappy processed-foods breakfast, or no breakfast at all! It’s, as always, a matter of priorities. 15 minutes the night before or in the morning to make and eat a healthy breakfast is doable for everyone! With proper planning and routines set into place time and money does not have to increase (see last week’s blog “Healthy Nutrition Made Easy).
Calculate what you spend on gasoline driving to and sitting in the car-line at McDonalds’ or Starbucks, along with the cost of the food. Then take that money, and buy a dozen eggs, a package of whole wheat tortillas, some deli turkey and a bag of pre-washed organic spinach. The cost will actually be less, the food can be cooked ahead of time, and in the morning heat up a healthy egg burrito for all of you. Soda and fruit juices should be saved for “treats.” Water is essential to everyone’s health and it’s cheaper (if not free).
A school mate said to my daughter one day “hey how come your Mom doesn’t give you Lunchables (as he ate his Oscar Mayer Lunchables)?” She looked at what he was eating and said “I have the same thing only better.” She had low-sodium organic turkey meat, all-natural sliced white cheddar (no orange dye), sea-salt rice crackers, grapes, carrots, cucumbers, a dollop of humus, and one Hershey’s kiss. Compare that to salami, dyed cheese (known to cause headaches and allergies), Ritz crackers (made with HFCS & sugar), no veggies, no fruit, and two Oreos — a usual Lunchables. Compare the cost too! I can feed her my homemade lunchables all week the cost of 1-2 pre-packaged Lunchables filled with stuff I wouldn’t eat, and I suspect neither would you.
Clearly I’m on a soap box today, but this really gets under my skin. No matter the age or school level, all kids need to eat six (6) small meals all day long, and get off their bums at regular intervals to move, stretch and expel energy. Only if parents commit to making this a lifestyle for their entire family, will we end the rampant obesity besieging our Nation.