Antonio Williams offers tips for eating healthy on the go
Between the shopping, cookie baking and holiday travels, fast food may seem like a cheap and speedy way to feed the family, but some experts think it may be a major contributor to an alarming statistic: 12.5 million obese children and adolescents in America.
Antonio Williams, an Indiana University fitness and marketing expert, said many fast-food restaurants have an increased amount of sugar, sodium and fat in their products to preserve food that is later cooked. This causes calorie counts to skyrocket, he said, in the unhealthy food that children increasingly are eating.
"Parents need to be educated on what a child needs on a day-to-day basis to be healthy," Williams said. "They need to help their kids understand what fats, carbs and proteins are good for their bodies."
With the extra family time spent together, school breaks during the holidays can provide parents with opportunities to show their kids how to be healthy. Youth will have a better understanding of the harmful effects of fast food, for example, if they see their parents eating less of it. Kids are likely to maintain a healthy weight, Williams said, if their parents are health conscious as well.
"It is not what you can tell them," he said, "but lead by example. There is a strong correlation between obese and overweight kids and adults. We need to create a united front and then people won't indulge as much."
These tips can help parents and kids join together to eat healthier:
- Fast-food restaurants are a part of our society that is here to stay. Consider patronizing restaurants that invest in your health by eating at the establishments that have healthy items such as lean proteins (grilled chicken), whole grains (oatmeal) and fruits/veggies (apples).
- Choose restaurants that make their calorie and macro-nutrient counts visible and are starting to recognize the importance of healthy children. For example, McDonald's is launching the "new happy meal" that includes a 10 percent reduction in sodium and a reduction in fries from 2.5 to 1.2 ounces.
- Spending time exercising together takes kids away from the television. Images in fast-food commercials make food look especially delicious through animation and vibrant colors, designed to make people hungry.
- Already have your smartphone in your palm 24/7? Download a calorie counter application such as MyFitnessPal or Livestrong. It will only take a few seconds to look up the items on a menu, which will help you make a smart decision.
- Juice is a big culprit for childhood obesity because of the large amount of sugar. Show kids that sugar is not always bad, but give them natural or less refined sugars. Try caffeine-free fruit tea as a juice option.
- Carry snacks while running errands. Almonds are an easy snack with a lot of great nutrients.
- Be sure to eat a nutritious breakfast before a day of shopping. Try to stay away from sugary cereals. Oatmeal is a great option because it can make one less hungry throughout the day and less likely to stop for a treat.
- Do not be influenced by deals if eating at a fast-food restaurant. Diners should not splurge for the large fries, even if it is only 50 cents more, if the smaller serving is their normal choice.
- Keep it simple. Ordering a sandwich or burger without side items like french fries is a much smarter decision.
- Stay away from sauces, which are a source of hidden calories. Also, salad dressing should be ordered on the side to make it easier to control portions.
- Thirst versus hunger. Signals for thirst are similar to those for hunger, but we confuse them. Drink 8 ounces of water and then wait 15 minutes before reassessing hunger. Try carrying a water bottle in the car or while shopping.
- Eating healthy does not mean a higher grocery bill. Most people over-consume, so it seems like they spend more for organic or fresh food. However, eating healthy foods over time will help control appetites, thus reducing shopping lists and expense.
Williams recently received funding from Ronald McDonald House Charities to launch his Fit U (Fit University) program. Fit U is an overall wellness initiative dedicated to changing perceptions and empowering kids through education to make healthy food choices at home, at school and in fast-food restaurants. The program also encourages physical activity through the monthlong MVP pledge: moderation, variety, play.
To read more articles from the Department of Kinesiology in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, visit info.iu.edu/cat/page/normal/356.html.