Kids seemingly jump from 0 to 17 in the blink of an eye. That is why it’s so important to help them lay the groundwork early for living a healthy life. By establishing and role modeling healthy behaviors in their childhood, parents, caregivers and teachers can set children up to make responsible decisions regarding their health and wellness down the road.

Obesity is associated with the leading causes of death worldwide, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer. In Oklahoma, obesity and excess weight affect 1 in 3 kids ages 10-17. Major contributors to this problem are poor diet and inactivity. By teaching and talking to children about health, we can help them to avoid chronic illness and increase their chances for living a longer life. Here are five quick ways to get started:

easy healthy meals

1. Eat Better. Choose foods for your family that are high in vitamins, minerals, fiber and other healthful ingredients — and low in saturated fat, sodium and added sugars. And remember to fill half their plates with fruits and veggies at every meal.

family exercises

2. Move More. Just 29% of Oklahoma kids get the recommended amount of daily physical activity. Make sure your children are active for 60 minutes each day. While you’re at it, join in the fun and games to get in your daily activity for 30 minutes.

drink water

3. Drink Water. It’s the best way to quench thirst. Plus, it has zero sugar, zero added calories … and zero cost! Want some flavor? Infuse water with fruit or herbs for a refreshing change.

get sleep

4. Prioritize Sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for reducing stress. Sleep also allows the mind to recharge and gives the body time to recover. Limiting screen time can also help to improve your child’s quality of sleep.

5. Live Tobacco Free. Being tobacco free is important for your health and the health of those around you. In fact, tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in Oklahoma. Secondhand smoke contains over 70 cancer-causing chemicals, and even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can be harmful. Another alarming fact: 1 in 5 Oklahoma students use some form of tobacco, including electronic cigarettes or vapes. It’s important for kids to see their parents role modeling healthy behaviors. If you need help quitting tobacco, the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline (1-800-QUIT NOW) is a great place to start. You can also help protect your child by talking to them about the dangers of tobacco and nicotine. Shape Your Future has talking tips to jumpstart the conversation. If you have a child 13-17 who is already vaping or using tobacco, connect them to My Life, My Quit, a FREE, text-based quit program for teens brought to Oklahoma by the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET).

It’s also important to note that obesity is not only associated with chronic disease but also with poor mental health. Practice self-care and show children how to manage their feelings in a healthy way. The emotional support can help build their self-confidence, which can also lead to healthier outcomes.

Addressing childhood obesity takes intent but, more importantly, it starts with taking small, healthy steps. Shape Your Future has many tips and tools to inspire and support your family’s health journey. Check out the great resources below to get started.

healthy living

Eat Better

Move More

Drink Water

Sleep Better

Live Tobacco Free

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