Childhood Obesity

Written by The Healthline Editorial Team on June 19, 2014

You’ve likely heard that childhood obesity is on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over the past 30 years, the number of kids who are obese has almost doubled. Have you ever worried that this trend might affect your kids?

Take action to reduce your child’s risk with these 10 simple steps. You can help your children become more active, eat a healthier diet, and potentially even improve their self-esteem by practicing these strategies to prevent childhood obesity.

Don’t focus on weight loss

Since children’s bodies are still developing, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDH) does not recommend traditional weight loss strategies for young people. A calorie-restricted diet may prevent children from getting the vitamins, minerals, and energy they need for proper growth. Focus instead on helping your child developing healthy eating behaviors. Always talk to your pediatrician or family healthcare provider before putting your child on a diet.

Provide nutritious foods

Healthy, balanced, low-fat meals offer the nutrition that your kids need and help them develop smart eating habits. Teach them about the importance of eating balanced meals with a variety of nutrient-rich items like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, dairy, legumes, and lean meats.

Watch portion size

 Overeating can contribute to obesity, so make sure that your children eat proper portions. For example, NYSDHadvises that two to three ounces of cooked poultry, lean meat, or fish is one portion. So is one slice of bread, one-half a cup of cooked rice or pasta, and two ounces of cheese.

Get them up

The CDC  suggests limiting kids’ time on the couch to no more than two hours daily. Kids already need to have time for homework and quiet reading, so you should limit their time with other sedentary activities like video games, TV, and surfing the Internet.

Keep them moving

The CDC advises that all kids engage in at least an hour of physical activity every day. This can be aerobic activity like running, muscle strengthening like gymnastics, and bone strengthening like jumping rope.

Get creative

Some kids get bored easily and won’t be intrigued by monotonous forms of exercise. No need to worry—try different forms of activity that will stimulate and inspire your child, like playing tag, dancing, jumping rope, or playing soccer.

Remove temptations

 If you stock the pantry with junk food, your child will be more likely to eat it. Kids look to parents for examples of how to eat. So be a healthy role model, and remove tempting but unhealthy options like calorie-rich, sugar-filled, and salty snacks from the house. Remember, the calories from sugary drinks add up, too—so try to cut back on the amount of soda and juice you purchase for your family.

Limit fats and sweets

 Kids won’t understand that eating too many calories from candy and other sweets and fattening treats can lead to obesity unless you explain it to them. Let kids have occasional goodies, but don’t make a habit of it.

Turn off TV while eating

 Kids may overeat if they watch television while snacking, according to experts at the Harvard School of Public Health(HSPH). Research has shown that the more television children watch, the more likely they are to gain extra pounds. HSPH also notes that children with televisions in their bedrooms are also more likely to be overweight than children with TV-free rooms.

Teach healthy habits

 When children learn about how to plan meals, shop for low-fat foods, and prepare nutritious dishes, they’ll be developing healthy habits that may last a lifetime. Involve kids in these activities and encourage them to participate in becoming more aware of their food choices.

HealthAhead Hint: Focus on Health

According to the CDC, when kids are obese, they are at greater risk for a wide number of health conditions. These problems include asthma, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and sleep disorders.

NYSDH reports that practicing healthy eating, exercising regularly, and reducing the amount of time spent in sedentary activities are the best ways to prevent obesity. Start practicing our 10 simple steps, and you may be well on the road to reducing your child’s risk of obesity. 

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