Wellness and Children: children learn what they see and live.
A healthy baby starts with a healthy pregnancy. In fact, it starts with a healthy woman before she becomes pregnant. Healthy babies well nourished and loved become healthy children. At least they have a greater chance to become healthy children.
Children can be taught to live healthy lifestyles, eat healthy food, and engage in healthy activities. That, of course, does not guarantee that all children will grow up making healthy choices as adults, but they have a greater chance to do so in a home and school environment where healthy choices are the norm.
Two-thirds of all adult Americans are either overweight or obese. This causes numerous chronic diseases which contributes to a reduced quality of life and shortened life spans. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), between 16% and 33% of children and adolescents are obese.
Not only does childhood obesity contribute to self-image problems and a low self-esteem, but it also contributes to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and trouble sleeping. According to AACAP, a child who has an obese parent has a 50% higher chance of being obese, and a child who has two obese parents has an 80% chance of being obese. Only 1% of childhood obesity is caused by medical disorders. Most obesity in children is caused by poor eating habits, lack of physical activity, depression, stress, family habits, and physical illness.
Children are easily influenced by corporations who target children in marketing unhealthy, highly processed, and high sugar foods. But adults are the ones who usually do the purchasing of the foods. When food packages have obvious cartoon pictures on them or come in colorful cutesy packages, it is obvious that food companies are targeting our children.
It is my opinion as a mother, grandmother, and health educator, that marketing strategies that target our children should be avoided. Children should learn to eat the same healthy food that health educators are promoting to adults. Foods targeted to children often have added food coloring and added sugars to make them more appealing. We can and should teach our children how these food companies are manipulating them. Children learn quickly when parents or family members are trying to manipulate them, why not teach them how these large food corporations are manipulating them, just to make money for themselves, not to nourish the children.
Rather than just being taught that certain foods are simply healthier, children need to be taught why they are healthier, why they should eat them. Children can be taught the basics of nutritional science. They can be taught that healthy foods, help them have healthy skin, nice hair, better sleep, as well as helping them think clearly and simply feel better. They also need to be taught why unhealthy foods are bad for them. Rather than just focusing on the fact that high fat and high sugar foods can cause them to be overweight, they can be taught the actual dangers of being overweight. It is way more than just how they look.
But one thing to remember is that if children are never allowed to have "junk" foods, they may simply ignore our teachings behind our backs. Candy and unhealthy snacks can be the occasional treat (not daily) with fruit, whole grain snacks, and low fat yogurt the norm.
Wellness in children is more than just what they eat. Goods homes (not expensive houses) and happy parents help promote mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness. Many children may not be fortunate enough to have happy home lives, that is when extended family members, good teachers, youth leaders, and mentors can play a major role in promoting wellness in children.