As the New Year approaches, it's a great time for families to think about making healthy changes such as choosing more nutritional foods and being more physically active. The lifestyles we learn at a young age often help to form our habits later in life.
Statistics show that obese children have an 80 per cent or higher probability of becoming obese adults. Adults who have unhealthy weights are at increased risk of heart disease, cancers, strokes and type 2 diabetes. In Canada, approximately 30 per cent of children and youth are either overweight or obese, that's up from 15 per cent in 1978.
Two major contributors are lack of exercise and poor eating habits. Only seven per cent of five-to-11 year olds are meeting the Canadian physical activity guidelines for children and youth, while 31 per cent are spending more than two hours a day in front of a TV or computer screen. What's more, only half of children across the country eat more than five fruit and vegetables per day.
That's why efforts are underway across the province, including in your community, to help families live a healthy lifestyle. MEND, which stands for "Mind, Exercise, Nutrition... Do it!", is a free local program that gives kids and parents the tips and tools they need to live a healthy lifestyle and maintain a healthy weight. The program was developed and tested by leading experts in child nutrition, child behaviour and exercise in the United Kingdom and adapted to align with Canadian dietary and policy guidelines.
The 10-week program, aimed at children ages five to 13, is currently registering new participants for January across British Columbia.
MEND offers children and their parents or caregivers group sessions that incorporate a fun mix of interactive family activities, practical demonstrations, games, tips about healthy foods, label reading, and portion sizes and tools for adopting an overall healthier lifestyle.
More than 130 children and their parents or caregiver have participated or are registered in B.C.'s MEND programs to date.
Kids who attended previous MEND programs have increased their physical activity and cut back their screen time. They're also eating more fruits and vegetables and less sugar, thanks to a better understanding of the importance of good nutrition. Parents also report an improvement in their child's self-esteem after participating in the MEND program.
Shapedown BC is another proven program that is available for children whose families may require a more comprehensive approach in working towards a healthy weight. A multi-disciplinary team provides physical, psycho-social and medical support to help families achieve their healthy living goals. Shapedown BC is provided in Vancouver at BC Children's Hospital, Island Health in Nanaimo, Interior Health in Kamloops, Northern Health in Prince George and Fraser Health in Surrey. A physician referral is required.
All parents want their children to live a healthy lifestyle in order to grow up strong and confident. MEND and ShapedownBC empower families and children to have fun, be healthy and get active.