The increasing number of overweight and obese children in the United States has been of rising concern over the years. By the year 2010, a third of the children in the United States were considered obese or overweight. With 60 percent of these children in daycare or childcare, the importance of providing healthier options outside the home are as vital as providing them within the home.
In 2010, the United States government passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act to provide federal funding for child nutrition and school meal programs. While the passing of this act was a good start in helping schools increase the availability of healthy food and drink options to low-income children, more needs to be done across the board to help fight childhood obesity. And one way to start is to get kids to drink water, rather than sugary drinks.
Fighting for the health of children
- Increase support and education in daycare centers. Researchers reviewing nationwide and statewide regulations observed daycare workers’ behaviors and water availability during lunchtime and active sessions. Of the 40 Connecticut-based childcare centers observed, 84 percent had water available in the classroom, but only 50 percent offered it at lunchtime without being asked. During periods of physical activity, water regulations and verbal prompts from teachers to remind kids to drink water occurred only one-third of the time. Clearly, teacher education and support needs to continue to encourage the availability of healthy water options.
- Eliminate excuses. In Dallas, Texas, city officials have the lofty goal of ending childhood obesity by 2020. So getting them to drink water instead of sugar-laden drinks is imperative. Children might complain that water “doesn’t taste like anything” – or find some other excuse to not drink water. But kids may have a point that drinking hard water out of a spotty glass is less than appetizing. If you have hard water in your home, consider getting a water softener or bottled water, so water looks and tastes good. Add a splash of fruit juice or a slice of fruit to make water more appealing for kids.
- Don’t give in. While it may be easier to give a tired, whining child the juice box he craves, giving in to such demands will only lead to repeat episodes. If your child has grown accustomed to drinking boxed juices or sodas, instead of making him go cold-turkey, tell him that if he drinks his water, maybe he can have a little bit of juice or soda for dessert (but not every day).
- Teach kids to enjoy healthy foods. We teach our young children how to eat, making it important to set the right example. You can’t tell a child to eat a plate of vegetables if you’re snacking on potato chips. Encourage your child to try an array of healthy foods such as lean proteins, fresh produce, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. Be the example you want your child to follow by eating a healthy diet, too.
It’s clear that we must all work together to promote healthy habits among children so they can grow up to carry those habits into adulthood. Taste preferences develop very young in life and since children aren’t born with a preference for sugary juice, the responsibility is placed on the adults in a child’s life to ensure a healthy start. Providing healthy water options and access to healthy meals is a critical part of improving the overall health of our nation’s children..