'Set up the environment:' Experts offer tips, resources to help manage kids' weight during pandemic

MILWAUKEE -- Youth sports, school recess, even playing in the park -- all came to a halt when the pandemic hit.

Jon Morgan

Jon Morgan, the physical activity coordinator with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, says these past few months of quarantine in essence gave kids a second dose of summer.

"A drop off in physical activity and the potentially poor eating habits," Morgan said. "Past research has shown they tend to gain weight over the summer now it'll be five months, in essence, of summer," he said.

Morgan says it's important to create an alternative routine for kids; cut the screen time, get outside, even in the backyard for a game, walk with the family or a bike ride.

"You need to set up the environment that they have built-in activity and they are eating healthy," Morgan said.

Can I have a snack?

Food is another component contributing to a growing size -- many parents have heard this phrase, which isn't new. But Samantha Gollup, a registered dietitian and nutritionist at UW Health, says our response to them should probably change.

"A third to half of our kids are obese or overweight," Gollup said. "I really encourage families to have more planned meals and snack time throughout the day offer and encourage kids to eat every 3-4 hours. Other than that, the kitchen is closed."

Samantha Gollup

And it's what those bites consist of that will make a difference.

"Having protein foods -- like meat, dairy products, cheese, nuts, nut butters -- those a really going to help you stay satisfied from meal to snack and with that having some type of fiber fruits, vegetables and whole grains will keep blood sugars more steady," Gollup said.

While balanced meals are key, Gollup adds that parents may want to also pay attention to underlying factors.

"If they are stressed, or anxious or bored, finding alternative coping strategies to that. We really used food to cope in our society with emotions and that is not helpful," said Gollup. "If we can find a way to listen to our bodies...are we actually feeling hunger or some other emotion and how do we cope with that in an alternative way."

Try to show compassion and be careful about who you approach the topic with kids.

For more information on healthy eating habits and ways to stay active, follow the links below: