Preventing Childhood Obesity
According to recent studies, approximately 66% of adults in the United States are overweight, and just over 30% are obese. In children the issue isn’t quite as pronounced, with 15.5% of adolescents aged 12 to 19 rated as overweight. However, as the child ages their weight will become more of an issue and may lead to health problems down the road – including Type II diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
As parents, the primary responsibility of preventing obesity rests on our shoulders, which is why it is so important to learn how to do this now, before your child develops unhealthy eating habits.
Chart Your Child’s Growth
Many parents assume their children are healthy just because they look that way. But how do you really know? It is important to chart your child’s Body Mass Index (BMI) at least once per year in order to get a good idea of where your child stands and to spot overweight trends before they become a serious problem.
Offer Fun and Healthy Snacks
Instead of stocking your cupboard with cookies, granola bars, and other high sugar snacks, consider offering healthier options. Good healthy snacks include:
- Veggies and low-fat dip
- Cheese and apple slices
- Trail mix
- Baked nachos with salsa
- Homemade 100% fruit juice popsicles
- Air popped popcorn
Ban Sodas and Most Juices
With a regular can of pop or juice containing as much as 11 teaspoons of sugar, it can make a large impact on a child’s diets to simply remove or restrict these types of drinks in your home. As far as juice is concerned, keep away from anything listed as a “punch” or “cocktail” since these have very little actually fruit juice in them. Offer 100% fruit juice once per day (unless you water it down) or water. Buy your child a cool refillable water bottle that they can take with them to school.
Stop the Sitting
It is estimated that an average child spends up to 25 hours per week engaged in “screen time” – either on the computer, in front of the TV, or playing video games. Meanwhile, physicians recommend that kids spend at least 1 hour per day involved in physical activity. So instead of buying video games, sign them up for swimming lessons or another activity. You’ll have even more success if your whole family participates.
Get Help if Needed
Too often parents decide that their kids are overweight and start restricting their food intake, which only leads to more problems. If you think your child has a weight problem, get help! You’ll have much more success introducing a healthy diet and exercise plan that makes sure your child does not go hungry than trying to simply cut down their caloric intake. There are many public programs out there to assist parents, so please ask for help.