The Games of Our Childhood

For people born before video games were hugely popular and energy sapping (I just beat that era), we have fond memories of playing sports as children. It could’ve been kickball, basketball, red rover, tag, or even just playing around that required calorie burning. Well, one way to get fit as adults could be to actually re-visit some of those childhood activities. Ok, adults playing red rover or tag may be a bit silly, but dodge ball and kickball games for adults are happening in some cities and I think it’s a great trend. We played them as kids for one simple reason (and it wasn’t exercise): they were fun! As adults we can capture some of that fun and a lost piece of our childhood. Oh, and get some exercise.

Let Them Eat Fish

fish oil 2

When about 7 or 8, I discovered fried clams, and was so impressed with the delightful bland mollusk, that I even did a report on it as a 4th grader. While clams didn’t raise my Omega-3 levels significantly, I did become interested in seafood, which probably did ensure that my Omega-3 levels were higher than many kids today. However, it wasn’t until 2004 that I became a seafood freak, which is to say, if seafood is a choice on a menu today, I almost always order it. I began eating more fish in 2004 because I took the GRE that year, and I wanted a brain boost. My scores were much higher than when I took it in 2000. Whether fish oil was responsible is debatable (I also studied like crazy), but I believe I am healthier for it.

I take 2 grams of fish oil a day, which gives me 360 mg of EPA and 240 mg of DHA, both abbreviation for Omega-3 fatty acids in most seafood. I also tend to consume a decent amount of seafood products, which means I am further benefiting from the goodness of Omega-3 fats. Apparently, children in North America aren’t quite as fortunate. In a recent study, only 22 percent of children met the U.S. and Canadian minimum recommend intake of 90 mg of EPA or DHA per day.  90 mg is a pretty low amount to begin with, and most kids studied weren’t even getting this! Considering a deficiency of Omega-3 fats can lead to concentration problems (and a host of other issues), giving our kids more salmon, tuna, and even fish oil softgels might be a good idea. At all the schools I have been to (as a teacher or student), I recall rarely having non-fried fish, and only having fried fish occasionally. And we wonder why Johnny can’t read, Michael can’t concentrate, and Samantha can’t get through the day without pharmaceuticals.

Want a Smart Kid? Exercise

Research from psychologists has indicated that mothers who exercise 30 minutes a day during pregnancy increase their child’s IQ by as much as eight percentage points. The study  also noted an increase in IQ associated with breast feeding and other positive factors.

We have been discovering over the years that having healthy children is more than just early childhood parental decisions, but even the woman’s behavior while pregnant. While we have known that drugs, alcohol, and smoking were bad, it’s nice to find positive things we can do to help our children while even in the womb. Fortunately my wife exercised and took DHA while our baby was in utero and breastfeeding. I hope it makes a difference.

Kids Need Self-Control To Stay Fit

A few weeks ago at church, I noticed there were two families sitting in front of me. The first had about 5 kids, ages 2 to 13, all well-behaved, and when they stopped paying attention or screwing around, mom and dad were quick to put a stop to it. The other family had 3 kids, and they were not paying attention, screwing around, and the parents didn’t really seem too bothered by it (although all of us around them wished they were better behaved). It made me wonder if many cases of ADD are a result being raised in a home where there is no discipline or expectations to sit still. What is my point in all of this? Being raised as an undisciplined child may actually make you fat later. A new study shows kids who lack self-control are more prone to obesity later in life. Thus, the study’s authors recommend that parents try to improve self-control in kids in order to help them remain healthy later.

REALLY? You mean all that buddy parenting and hands-off parenting isn’t a good idea? Okay, okay, I know I should lay off the sarcasm, but does this generation of parents really need to be told to actually parent? Apparently. Kids need supervision, guidance, and discipline. This reminds me of an encounter I witnessed a few years ago. A child was sticking his fingers around a light socket. Jonathan said “don’t you think you should get him away from that?” The mother responded, “ahh, once he sticks it in once he won’t do it again.” Parent of the year!

One In Five Four Year Olds Is Obese

Yes, you read that statistic right. According to a recent study, one in five American four year olds is obese. In addition, the study revealed racial disparities with Hispanics, blacks, and American Indians having an even higher rate. The American Indian number was a disturbing 31%.

Now, these statistics are troubling in and of themselves, but considering that people are more likely to gain excess weight as they get older, these statistics are even scarier. How many of this new generation of children will be obese when they reach the age of ten or eighteen? Most troubling for our society and its fragile healthcare system, how many will be obese when they are forty?

As many who read this blog know, I used to be fat. However, I was not fat as a child. I can pinpoint the exact time I got fat. It was when I got a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Previously, I spent most of my time outside, however, after the NES, rather than kickball, I preferred Mario Bros. And, my figure showed it. How many of these four year olds suffer the same problems, like lack of activity? Judging by the stats, quite a few.

We have our work cut out for us!

No Surprise: Restaurant Kids Meals Are Unhealthy

It is no surprise to me. A new study finds that restaurant kids meals have too many calories. Most kids meals exceed the 430 calorie threshold for kids to stay in normal weight ranges. Some of the meals even hover around the 1000 calorie mark! Kids in the 4-8 age range need about 1300 calories a day, so one of these meals puts them at around 77% of their needed calories for a day. Most adults would likely be overweight if they consumed 1000 calories in one meal.

When I say this isn’t surprising to me, I mean that there aren’t that many choices for adults either. In fact, there are some restaurants I nearly have to avoid if I want to eat right, and at most restaurants, I have to avoid the majority of the meals. That kids meals would fit this same logic makes perfect sense. So how can you eat healthy when eating out? Well, it is pretty difficult, but it can be done. I eat out about once or twice a week, and these are the tips I use.

– Look at the nutritional information beforehand, and plan out what you want. Almost every restaurant has something available that is healthy

– Avoid caloric drinks; stick to unsweet tea, diet, or water. It is very easy to put down 3-4 glasses of pop in one sitting, and this adds a LOT of needless calories

– Avoid appetizers, bread, etc. I try to limit my intake of these items, because their calories can easily add up

– Avoid dessert, or get a low calorie dessert. Again, check the calories beforehand

– Exercise that day so you have more calories to play with

– Eat at home. You don’t have to eat out a lot

The last point is probably the most important. The article says:

“Parents want to feed their children healthy meals, but America’s chain restaurants are setting parents up to fail,” CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan said in a statement. “McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, and other chains are conditioning kids to expect burgers, fried chicken, pizza, French fries, macaroni and cheese, and soda in various combination at almost every lunch and dinner.”

I find this rather amusing. So now parents are being controlled by restaurants? While I think it is probably true to some degree, it doesn’t have to be this way. Not every kid is conditioned to think “fast food” is real food, but when parents don’t have the time or will to ever cook at home, so that the family can experience a real home-cooked meal, I can see why many kids probably think a home-cooked meal is warming up left over fast food. I often wonder if we (including our children) would all be thinner if we ate at home as a family more often, instead of allowing corporations to plan our meals for us.

Why Not Just Go Outside?

Some doctors are now recommending prescribing cholesterol lowering drugs to children as young as 8, in order to ward off future heart attacks and strokes. Why? Because many children are obese, and stay obese, and have high levels of bad cholesterol.

I have to admit I find this rather ridiculous, and quite indicative of the health of our society. The article suggests the drugs should be prescribed only after diet and exercise have failed, but I have to ask, in the case of many obese children, how much diet and exercise are parents actually trying in these cases? How many families are making real lifestyle adjustments in order to benefit their children, and how many are simply making a token effort? How much easier it is to avoid any true lifestyle adjustment and simply put your child on a prescription drug?

Here are a few ideas I think would help (and this includes every member of the family):

– Get rid of all soft drinks from the house

– Get rid of all pre-packaged sweets, like candy bars, twinkies, etc

– Limit red meat consumption to once a week

– Eat non-fried fish 3-5 times a week

– Get rid of video games and cable, and limit internet use to 1 hour a night for the kids

– Join the Y, go hiking, get involved in sports, etc

You might be saying…wow, that is extreme. You might ask, do you do all of these things? The answer is pretty much yes. We do occasionally have some diet pop in the house, but otherwise, we follow the advice ourselves. Nonetheless, these recommendations are extreme for at least two reasons. First, Americans tend to be pretty unhealthy, so something healthy like this seems extreme, but in times past it wouldn’t have seen all too abormal. Second, we are talking about 10 year olds with signs of heart disease! 10 year olds! If this doesn’t warrant an extreme response, I don’t know what does.