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Five Strategies to Help Your Child Manage Pandemic Pounds in a Healthy Way

by Kendra Furlough

Head-spinning news. Mandatory lockdowns. They’re shutting down school?  Are you serious?!  Managing the sweeping life changes the COVID-19 virus has brought to our lives has been a challenge. The unpredictable events shut us into our homes along with easy access to our refrigerators where many of us made hourly visits.  Many adults gained weight and decided to buy stretchier pants to accommodate growing bellies. Children, however, have sometimes gone under the radar of our attention with unintended weight gain.  A routine visit to your pediatrician may reveal that your child’s height-to-weight ratio on the growth chart may be inching closer to a less than ideal body mass index.  The good news is it’s not too late to start shifting habits to get children back on track to pre-pandemic health. Here are five ways to get your child’s extra pandemic pounds under control. 

Bring Back Recess

With many children now learning virtually, the concept of a recess period or physical education class is no longer available.  Get kids active by instituting a mandatory recess period at home.  If time during the school day doesn’t allow it, require at least a 30-minute play period after school for your child to get fresh air and activity. Being tied to a computer all day is draining on the mind and the body.  Getting physical activity could remind them of the enjoyment they had during recess or athletics period they had before the pandemic. It’s a good way to spark them to seek out movement on their own during free time.

Video Games with a Punch

One worry as a parent is kids having too much screen time after sitting in front of a computer all day for school. Still, there will be some kids inclined to want to be in front of a screen all day anyway.  Turn it to their healthful advantage. Many kids have video gaming systems but playing those games keeps them tucked into a corner of a sofa or lounging on a video gaming chair. Instead, invest in a video game that has physical movement. There are several fun video games available for gaming systems that can get your kids moving. For instance, the Nintendo Switch has a boxing game called “Fitness Boxing 2” where you have boxing workouts to a soundtrack. You can customize workouts and even choose a personal trainer.  It can be a great way to let your kids punch it out to burn a few calories.

Bring Old School Play Back In Style with Classic Games 

Don’t underestimate the power of outdoor games that were your favorite becoming ones that your child will enjoy also. 

Potato sack races come to mind when thinking of games played often in another era. Most of us don’t have potato sacks around anymore, but a body pillowcase is a modern spin on the potato sack with its ease of availability.  Let your kids shove themselves into one and have a go at a sack race in your backyard.  Don’t have much of a backyard? Move the furniture around and have one in your living room. 

Another classic is playing musical chairs. Get your kids, grab some chairs and crank up your Bluetooth speakers with lively, uptempo beats to speed up the pace.  The kids won’t burn thousands of calories, but several rounds of it will get the heart pumping and get the mind off of not-so-healthy snacks calling from the pantry.  

Make healthy snacks available.

Speaking of not-so-healthy snacks, make sure to leave the junk food on the store shelves. It seems like a no-brainer that if it’s not at home to eat, it can’t be consumed. Nonetheless, so many of us release our inhibitions when we see our favorite treats.  The treats end up at home next to us on the sofa like a familiar friend.  Look for healthier options when shopping. Celery sticks or low-fat greek yogurt are good, filling alternatives.  If you’re feeling bad about making your child go cold turkey from some of their go-to snacks that are contributing to weight gain, make sure that those indulgent treats are portion controlled.  Take the time to look at nutrition labels to see what the serving size is for the item. Most of us are guilty of doubling the serving size for ourselves and children without a second thought.  Buy a kitchen scale and give them the serving size recommended on the packaging. If they balk at it not being enough, help get them accustomed to the change by pairing a snack like chips along with a healthy choice such as apple slices or carrot sticks. 

Weekend Kid Walks

If you have the spare time, use it to take your child for a walk around your neighborhood or a nearby park. Not only is it an excellent time to catch up on the latest experiences of your child, but it’s also a nice, relaxed way to get in some physical activity when things are less rushed. Some kids will be satisfied with a casual walk while some may challenge you to a foot race, so be ready with your best running shoes! Either way, this time with your kids is an effortless and free way to incorporate activity into your lives that can also easily alleviate weight issues brought on by this period of time in which we live.

Overall, the emphasis should not be on stressing to your child that they need to lose weight.  There can be serious unintended consequences to self-esteem that could lead to dangerous behavior to manage weight.  What we want to do is foster in our children a sense of deep love for their bodies no matter their shape, but also encourage healthy habits that will last long past the time they leave your loving, guided care. The pandemic has changed the world and for some of us, the new routines have changed our bodies. What’s great is that we don’t have to settle into any of these new negative patterns without a fight.

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