I’m often asked how often we deal with children with weight issues, and if we have seen an increase in recent years. Many also wonder if there is a common reason for obesity in children in our community.
I personally have many young clients with weight issues, and the nutrition counselors in our practice do as well. I do not see one common reason. I would say that it is a combination of a sedentary lifestyle, too much junk food, and a lack of education. I do not see a recent increase in obesity but I do see an increase in the number of children going to nutritionists. I think the problem has always existed; it’s just that now it’s common to get help and is no longer embarrassing or a stigma.
I was also asked what I would recommend as a guideline for parents to keep their kids healthy but also not have them feel excluded from treats and parties, etc. For example: How many times per week should parents encourage physical activity, and is there a certain number or types of treats that would be okay? What about birthday parties, etc.?
I would encourage parents to implement the 80/20 rule, which means that 80 percent of eating is portioned, balanced, recorded, and accounted for. The other 20 percent is not a complete party but it’s okay to enjoy pizza at a party, or a Rosh Chodesh treat at school.
I am often asked if there is a special way we can explain to kids the importance of health and nutrition. Meaning, how can a parent be sensitive to an overweight or at risk of being overweight child, while explaining the concern for their health?
I like to use a lot of analogies that are easy for a child to understand. I also like to explain in very simple, easy to understand terms and even physically show them a food label so that they have a better understanding. A parent can be sensitive by being positive and loving versus critical and negative or berating.
Here are some ideas for healthy and fun snacks that kids will enjoy: popcorn, pretzels, quinoa crisps, flutes, apple chips, pop corners, string cheese, fruit cups, etc.
Here are some ideas for exercises that kids can do inside during the winter time:
We have a great DVD out specifically for kids called shape fitness kosher workout DVD for girls and teens. It is all kid-friendly and very easy to follow. Another great idea is a trampoline or a hula hoop.
Jewish kids have the extra challenge of Shabbos and holidays and many simchahs.
I want to say that the fact that Shabbos comes every week and the holidays come every year makes it hard - but it also makes it predictable. It is not a surprise event. If we help the child figure out a routine that works, he/she can hopefully feel empowered to repeat it again and again!
Alice Harrosh is a Nutrition Counselor and Manager at Nutrition by Tanya, with 14 locations, including one on Main street in Queens! Alice knows that making healthy choices is not always easy, as she has been through the struggle herself. As an optimistic person, Alice’s favorite quote is: “It’s never too late to start eating better. If you have a bad morning, make it a better afternoon.” For more information on Nutrition by Tanya or the TAP (Tanya approved products) food line, please visit www.nutritionbytanya.com or call 844-Tanya-Diet (844-826-9234). For daily tips and inspiration, you may follow @nutritionbytanya on Instagram. Our beautiful and healthy new cookbook, Cooking with Tanya, is now available in Judaica stores or through the Menucha Publishing website.