YMCA of Greater Erie

October 6 is National Child Health Day, and while the dangers of childhood obesity are well-chronicled, many children who are overweight or obese don’t realize it. That’s why the YMCA of Greater Erie wants families to understand the role weight perception plays in childhood obesity and ways to reverse course through increased physical activity and improved eating habits.

A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics  says about 30 percent of children and adolescents aged 8–15 in the United States misperceive their weight, with approximately 81 percent of overweight boys and 71 percent of overweight girls believing they are about the right weight. If unchecked, obesity puts children at risk for many chronic diseases seen in adults such as high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

“The best way to find out if your child’s weight might be affecting their health is to visit your pediatrician or primary health care provider,” said Jill Simmons, Vice President of Childcare Services for the YMCA of Greater Erie. “Once a family understands any weight-related risks, they can work together to incorporate more physical activity and healthy eating habits into their daily routines. “

The following tips are some great ways to incorporate more activity and healthier eating habits into your daily family routine:

  •  Eat Healthy: Make water the drink of choice (supplemented by age-appropriate portions of 100 percent fruit juices and low-fat milk) and make it easy for everyone to fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables by offering two or three colorful options. Feel free to mix and match fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables to provide variety.
  •  Play Every Day/Go Outside: Kids should have at least an hour a day of unstructured play outside (when possible) and break a sweat at least three times a week by getting 20 minutes or more of vigorous physical activity.
  •  Get Together: Eat as a family as frequently as possible with kids involved in meal preparation and clean up. In addition, adults should take a break from electronics and spend one-on-one time each day with their kids, enjoying one another’s company.
  •  Reduce Screen Time: Time spent in front of a television, computer, tablet, cell phone or video games should be limited to two hours per day.
  •  Sleep Well: Kids and adults need to keep a regular sleep schedule—10-12 hours per night for kids and seven to eight hours for adults.

In addition to being healthy at home, there is a need to maintain healthy habits while in childcare, school or at out-of-school programs. To create healthy environments for all children independent of size in out-of-school programs, the YMCA of Greater Erie is implementing Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Standards in our early learning and before and after school programs as part of the Y’s commitment to the Partnership for a Healthier America. Our goal is to make the healthy choice the easy choice for your child while he or she is in our care.

To foster your child’s health, the Y strives to:

  •  Provide a fruit and/or vegetable at all meals and snacks.
  • Only provide milk and water as beverages.
  • Serve meals and snacks family-style.
  • Set limits on screen time.
  • Provide daily physical activity, outdoors when possible.
  • Promote and support exclusive breastfeeding for infants.
  • Have adults model healthy food and beverage choices and active play.
  • Provide parent education to encourage healthy behaviors at home.

“We’ve begun to pilot some of these standards in 2013 – making adjustments to our snacks and meals.  We are working with our food providers to incorporate fresher fruit and vegetable options,” said Simmons.  “Parents can look for these standards to be fully integrated into our programs throughout 2015 & 2016.”