health for your
strategies for kids
By Angela Pirisi
IT’S ALMOST TIME to start fretting again
about what to put in kids’ lunch boxes. But
while you’re at Costco loading up on snacks
and drinks, your biggest challenge won’t be
getting it all into your car. It will be how to get
your kids to eat the healthy stuff you pack and
skip the trip to the vending machine.
Many adolescents and teenagers typically
have unhealthy eating habits—some gravitate
toward high-fat and sugary junk food, while
others become restrictive, cutting calories and
forgoing foods, such as meat or dairy. Experts
now suggest that both kinds of eating behaviors can lead to overweight and obesity.
The big picture
Childhood obesity in the United States
may be reaching epidemic proportions, but
there’s a whole spectrum of weight-related
problems, explains Dianne Neumark-Sztainer,
a children’s health and nutrition expert at the
University of Minnesota’s School of Public
Health and author of I’m, Like, So Fat! (The
Guilford Press, 2005). “There are real concerns about obesity, but also a need to be more
concerned with other weight-related problems
that include body dissatisfaction, unhealthy
weight control, excess or inadequate exercise
and erratic eating behaviors,” she says.
Studies have shown that many adolescents and teens are concerned about their
appearance and weight and have some degree
of body dissatisfaction. For instance, the
American Academy of Pediatrics (www.aap.
org) reports that about one in two teenage
girls and one in four teenage boys have tried
dieting to change their body shape.
Neumark-Sztainer, a Costco member,
has been doing a long-term study involving
2,500 adolescents, and the first five years of
tracking data have shown that kids who diet
have a greater risk of disordered eating
behaviors and obesity.
Dieting or restrictive eating behaviors can
affect puberty, growth and long-term health.
They also can lead to nutritional deficiencies,
such as calcium and iron, which are essential
for growth in adolescents and teens. And they
can cause menstrual irregularities, delayed on-
set of puberty, slowed or diminished growth,
plus osteopenia (low bone-mineral density)
and osteoporosis (loss of bone mass).
For more information on fostering healthy eating
habits and a healthy body image, visit these sites.
• National Eating Disorders Association,
• Love Your Body,
• Eating Disorder Referral and Info,
Many adolescents and
have unhealthy eating
toward high-fat and
sugary junk food, while
others become restrictive, cutting calories
and forgoing foods,
such as meat or dairy.
active tend to do better academically),
improved mood and higher self-esteem.
Don’t narrate, participate. Don’t sit on
the sidelines with a cup of coffee—try kicking
around the soccer ball with your kids. “
Role-model that healthy eating and active living are
important. Make it a priority as a parent and
children will emulate that,” says Keaschuk.
Create a healthy home environment.
Stock whole-grain crackers, low-fat dairy, and
fruits and vegetables instead of cookies and
chips. Limit TV and computer time. Make
physical activity a norm—like a family walk
or bike ride.
Eat together more often. People may
take it for granted, but family meals definitely promote healthy eating. “Our research
consistently shows that there are far better
dietary outcomes and fewer eating-related
behaviors,” says Neumark-Sztainer. Besides,
she says, when you eat together, you can
promote healthy choices and spot unhealthy
Make healthy living a family affair.
“Encourage healthy eating and active living
for all family members, regardless of weight
status,” says Keaschuk. “Everyone, regardless
of weight, can make changes to be healthier
and benefit from these changes.” C
AUGUST 2010 ;e Costco Connection 37
Angela Pirisi is a freelance writer who covers
a variety of health topics.