COLORADO SPRINGS — According to a study published online in Pediatrics, childhood obesity rates increased 2% through the pandemic, which may not sound like much, but remember it was already a massive problem before COVID.
We are seeing the results of the problem right here in southern Colorado, says Kristin Newsome, a pediatric clinical dietitian at Children's Hospital Colorado in Colorado Springs. “We are seeing kids come in more for diabetes, hypertension, or high blood pressure, and so much of it comes down to the same message - diet and exercise.” As simply as that sounds to fix, Kristin adds, “That's a really big barrier sometimes to get that textbook knowledge that we have. We know how to eat healthy, we know how to eat right, and that message hasn't really changed much.”
Part of the problem when it comes to food says is generally what's easiest to access to what tastes the best, isn't generally what's best for us. Kristin says, “We live in a very toxic environment where it's so hard sometimes to make the right choices. Everywhere you go, you have food and beverage choices that are loaded in calories, fat, sodium, and sugar, and it makes it really hard to make the right choices.”
As much as we want to allow our kids to make their own choices in many ways as part of the growing up process, it's important to remember if children are struggling with obesity, parents and caregivers are usually the gatekeepers to food. Kristin explains, “Kids are not out buying their own groceries or stocking the pantry or the fridge. They're eating what is around them, so it's really our job (as caregivers) to make sure that those food choices and those options are as ideal and healthy for them as possible.”
The role parents play in kid's eating behaviors goes beyond stocking the pantry, which is likely another reason the childhood obesity issue has grown during the pandemic, because many adults have struggled with weight gain themselves.
Kristin says, “If we want our kids to eat healthy we have to demonstrate the same in our own lives. Kids are picking up on all of our subtle cues, how our own plate looks, how colorful it is even our portions and how fast we eat. Having a parent, guardian or caretaker modeling that (healthy) behavior is really an important thing to think about. I think one of the benefits that has come out of COVID-19 and the pandemic is it has shifted us to more eating at home and as a family. it's giving us the opportunity to sit down together and have family meals and ideally we want the electronics off at the tablet and to really have family conversation that slows us down in our pace of eating and kids are learning from you what that time looks like.”
If you know some changes need to be made in your house, Kristin says it's VERY important to not think of everything at once, that can easily become overwhelming and lead to giving up. “It's translating what healthy eating looks like in your home, that is where the disconnect is a lot of times, and making small meaningful changes is what is important.”
What do small meaningful changes look like? Kristin will talk more about that and share some examples coming up in a future story. (STORY HERE: YHF WHAT DO SMALL MEANINGFUL CHANGES LOOK LIKE?)