child reaching for big hamburger

Childhood obesity has become a major issue across America. More than 16 percent of young people are currently considered obese. According to a recent study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine (AJPM), that number could rise to more than 20 percent unless kids start changing their diets. Fortunately, this same study suggests that if children between the ages of 2 and 19 cut just 64 calories a day from their diets, childhood obesity rates could be reduced nationally.

These small caloric decreases may seem insignificant--but they add up on a national scale, and can help children learn how to manage their eating habits. On an individual level, different children may have different needs. Researchers note that the 64-calorie recommendation is only an average. If children are very overweight or obese, they may need to cut back by a bit more to see significant personal results. For children who are only moderately overweight, the 64-calorie reduction may be the perfect fit. And no matter how heavy or slim your kids appear, all children can benefit by learning how to eat a healthy, nutritious diet.

Start Cutting Calories
To get started, you can help your kids set a manageable personal goal to reduce their calories by a certain amount--whether it's 64 calories or 120 calories per day. If in doubt, talk to your pediatrician about an appropriate calorie deficit to target. The simple act of setting this small goal will make kids more aware of what they eat. In turn, they will be more likely to make healthy choices on their own.

There are a number of easy ways for your children to shave 64 calories out of their daily diets:

  • A half a can of soda is approximately 87 calories.
  • A single chicken finger can be up to 100 calories.
  • A quarter-slice of pizza is about 71 calories.
  • Six potato chips equal around 64 calories.
  • One buttermilk pancake can be as many as 69 calories.
  • 13 cheese puffs equal around 64 calories.

Asking your kids to cut a small number of treats from their daily diet can help them reach their calorie goal. The study authors also suggest that children drink water instead of sugar-sweetened drinks. In addition, they emphasize that school-based physical education programs, and after-school activities that involve exercise, can help close the calorie gap too.

To help your kids track their calorie savings, encourage them to log their daily reductions in a journal or on a calendar. For extra incentive, try offering your children a reward. A trip to the movies, or some other small prize, is a great way to encourage kids to stick to their goals.

HealthAhead Hint: Small Changes for Big Benefits
While 64 calories may seem insignificant, it adds up over time. If our nation's children as a whole fail to make these small calorie cuts, researchers predict that more than one in five kids may be obese within a decade. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) aims to reduce the nation's obesity rates by the year 2020. Helping your children to set a personal goal to reduce their caloric intake can help protect them from the risk of childhood obesity. Moreover, by making this one small change, your children will learn to make healthier eating choices for years to come.