Special to Find It In Fondren® (UMMC)
Health and fitness resolutions can fall like January snowflakes, University of Mississippi Medical Center experts say, but making a few small changes can give families big results.
“Take small steps,” advises Dr. Scott Rodgers, chair of the psychiatry. “Focus on what is achievable and make it happen. Also, share your resolution with others. Voicing your goal increases the likelihood of it happening.”
Taking action by watching those calories is key.
“My main point to families is that unless they control their intake of sugary drinks and limit their intake of foods with a high-fat content and cut down the size of portions, it will be very difficult to maintain a healthy weight,” said Dr. Will Sorey, professor of pediatrics and medical director of the Eli Manning Clinics for Children.
Mississippi has plenty of changes to make when it comes to youth health and fitness. According to the Mississippi Department of Health website, the vast majority of high school students eat less than five servings of fruits and vegetables each day or take physical education classes, and nearly half watch three hours of TV or more each day.
In 2016, the State of Obesity by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ranked Mississippi third in the nation in percentage of overweight and obese youths ages 10 to 17. Among adults, the project ranked the state second in percentage of obese adults at 37.3 percent.
To make healthy changes in the new year, Children’s of Mississippi experts offer the following ideas:
1) Think small.
“When starting a fitness journey, the most important thing to do is set small achievable goals,” said Tommy Berg, University Wellness fitness coordinator. “The first goal could be as simple as exercising for 10 minutes two days a week.
“The key in choosing the first goal is that should be easy to accomplish. Once you are able to exercise constantly for 10 minutes, you have mastered that and will be able to go onto bigger and better things.
“Many people fail in fitness journeys because they have unrealistic goals and expectation, such as, ‘I want to work out for an hour five days a week and lose 10 pounds a week,’ which is not possible. If you set small achievable goals you will set yourself up for success.”
2) Snacking is good, but make healthy choices.
Krista King, Children’s of Mississippi dietitian, suggests snacks that mix carbohydrates with protein and fiber, such as fruit and nuts, popcorn with string cheese or a whole-grain tortilla with a sprinkling of shredded cheese and salsa.
“Children need snacks to power through the day,” she said. “They just need to be healthy choices and portioned appropriately.”
3) Eat Together as a Family.
Not only should families eat together as often as possible, dinner should be served at the table instead of in front of the TV, said Dr. Whitney Herring, assistant professor of pediatrics and director of the Wellness and Weight Clinic.
4) Cook together as a family.
Let children help with planning and preparation. Making meals at home is a great opportunity to trim fat and calories, said Sorey, who noted portion sizes at home tend to be smaller than those served at restaurants.
5) Everyone can benefit from regular physical activity.
According to Shanda Sandridge, Weight and Wellness Clinic nurse practitioner, “There are many benefits of regular exercise that include having stronger muscles and bones, weight loss/maintenance, improved sleep and flexibility. Most importantly, physical activity reduces risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes beyond that produced by weight reduction alone.”
Easy moves include taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking, jogging or cycling. Start with 15 minutes and gradually increase every week to a total of 60 minutes or more each day.
6) Work more fruits and vegetables into meals.
“Take along a piece of fruit or some baby carrots for a snack,” advises Keisha Luckey, Children’s of Mississippi diabetes coordinator. “They’re more portable than a candy bar or a bag of chips and are much healthier.”
7) Make healthier changes to drinks.
According to Dr. Crystal Lim, assistant professor of psychiatry and assistant director of UMMC’s Pediatric Wellness and Weight Clinic, “Obviously water is the most important thing to drink, but small changes like switching from whole milk to 2 percent, 1 percent or fat-free milk would be a way to reduce fat and calories.
“Changing from sugary drinks to unsweetened drinks, like from sweet tea to unsweet tea, would be a way to limit calories and sugars. These small changes can have the potential to make a big impact on weight management in children since it is very easy to consume hundreds of calories from drinks alone.”