Friday, September 21, 2012

Leave the Screen, Be Active and Find a Balance

          Everyone enjoys watching their favorite TV shows, a good movie, being on social media websites and surfing the web. These activities are enjoyable but are they really beneficial for our health? All of these activities can be referred to as screen time. Television became the number one leisure activity in 1980 for the United States and has stayed number one ever since. People are spending a large part of their days in front of electronic screens; kids alone are spending over 5 hours of their day in front of a screen. This amount of time is the second highest activity that kids spend their time doing, the first is sleeping. It is very disturbing that our nation’s youth is spending this much time inactive looking at a screen. The time to change this is now,  and in order to do this the entire family has to be involved. That is the key factor to making this change work.

Many different factors play a role in the reasoning of why a large amount of screen time is bad for adults and kids. The decrease in activity level is a major factor; this inactivity causes the body to store more calories which causes an increase in weight. Also, it has been seen that with more screen time there is an increase in caloric consumption, this increase causes calories to be stored and not burned resulting in weight gain. One pound of fat is equal to about 3500 calories, meaning if a person eats about 500 calories less a week they will lose one pound in one week. A person will burn more calories sitting down working on homework than a person sitting down watching TV. 
To help prevent obesity in children there needs to be a decrease in screen time. This has to be an effort by both the parents and the kids. The parents need to set the rules and also follow the rules put in place for limiting the screen time for the kids. Kids learn by example and they will be more willing to follow along if the whole family is making an effort. This limit on screen time will give families more time to spend together. Family activities that can be done together are walks, bike rides, soccer games, basketball games, and going to the parks to play.
With the limitation of screen time and an increase in activity, families also need to be eating healthy foods. Eating together as a family at a table is a great way to increase family time and healthy eating habits. Eating as a family and not in front of a screen can decrease mindless eating which will decrease the amount of unneeded calories. In a recent Canadian research study it was found that if kids eat with their family at a table with no TV or electronic screen on they will have higher nutritional and psychological benefits from their meals. It has been seen that foods that are consumed in front of electronic screens are calorie dense, high fat, high sugar, and high sodium foods. Make sure that snacks are healthy such as fruits, vegetables, low fat yogurt, nuts, or wheat pretzels. Be aware of portion sizes on snacks be sure to read the nutrition facts labels and portion out snacks into a container instead of eating right out of the bag. Get creative with snacks and meals; involve the whole family in making the healthy snack and meal choices to keep them involved in the kitchen.
Remember be sure to leave the screen, be active and find a balance. Enjoy the time away from the screen, be active outside as a family and find that balance in foods and eating healthy.
Snack idea to make as a family:
Yogurt Drops
·         12 oz of Flavored Fat Free Greek Yogurt
·         1 Quart sized Plastic zip bag
·         Cookie sheets
1.) Mix yogurt to make sure flavoring is incorporated into the entire yogurt.
2.) Spoon yogurt into the plastic bag and cut the corner of the bag to be able to make little yogurt dots.
3.) Make dots of yogurt on the cookie sheet then place in the freezer.
4.) The dots should be done within an hour and they are ready to eat!
·         This recipe can be altered to make different flavors such as Pumpkin by mixing pumpkin puree in vanilla yogurt and add some pumpkin spice for a nice fall flavor or even drop the yogurt on a layer of toasted oats or graham cracker crumbs
Dunn C, Albright J, Andersen K, Bates T, Beth D, Ezzell J,Schneider L, Sullivan C and Vodicka        S. Tame the Tube. February 2008. Available
Tina Liang, Stefan Kuhle and Paul J Veugelers (2009). Nutrition and body weights of Canadian     children watching television and eating while watching television. Public Health         Nutrition,12, pp 24572463 doi:10.1017/S1368980009005564

Written by:
Colleen Sesock
Penn State Dietetic Intern

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