Unhealthy Eating Patterns and Childhood Obesity (page 3)
How concerned should I be about my overweight child’s health? Why limit my child’s consumption of fast foods and sugar? What can I do to help combat my child’s unhealthy eating patterns? Isn’t it just baby fat?
Ways to encourage a healthy weight for your child
Healthy eating patterns should start when your child is an infant. You can set the standards by choosing healthy foods for your child, including nutritious snacks and meals, avoiding sugar and soft drinks, and maintaining a consistent feeding pattern. Body Mass Index (BMI) is used by most medical and dietary professionals to determine healthy weight. Visit the CDC web site on Body Mass Index for children to learn more about BMI and to determine the healthy body mass for your child: http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/bmi/bmi-for-age.htm. Since eating patterns are a learned behavior, if your child has bad habits now, it will take time and effort for him to “unlearn” those unhealthy behaviors. Here are a few tips for helping your child improve his nutritional health:
- Model good behavior. Your child looks to you for guidance in all things, and eating’s no different. Everyone in your family will benefit from healthy eating patterns.
- Focus on health. Focusing on weight loss or change may become discouraging and can negatively alter your child’s body image. Instead, focus on becoming healthier, improving physical ability, cardiovascular health, and stronger muscles and bones. Work with your pediatrician and a professional dietitian to reinforce the health benefits of healthy eating habits and weight management. Get moving.
- Encourage your child to participate in school or community team sports, martial arts, or other motivational activity. Healthy weight usually isn’t achieved long term without the element of exercise. Besides, it will be a great way for your child to build self-esteem and make new friends! See our section on Physical Activity for more information. Set goals.
- Decide to walk or run an upcoming charity road race together, set a goal to eat five fruits and vegetables each day for a week or month, or make up your own fun goals. Reward achieved goals.
- Tangible rewards are a great way to motivate your child. Don’t use food as a reward, instead try these fun rewards: a movie night, a hiking or camping trip together, or new sports equipment.
Why limit fast foods and sugar?
The consequences of not addressing your child’s unhealthy eating patterns are very serious. Consider the following statistics:
According to a recent study from Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “early childhood obesity is the most potent predictor of obesity five years later, suggesting that to be effective, intervention to prevent obesity in childhood and adolescence must begin at a very early age.”
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys recently released research that shows 10 percent of toddlers ages 2 to 5 years old are seriously overweight.
Children who are overweight are much more likely to be overweight or obese as adults.
Studies show that individuals who are 20 percent or more overweight run a greater risk of developing type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and some forms of cancer.
Healthy amounts of fat are required in every diet, including children of all sizes, for normal cellular and neurological development and maintenance. Extremely low-fat diets can have detrimental effects too— the key is moderation. Generally, children should enjoy full-fat foods (whole milk, cheese, etc.) until around 2 years, and should enjoy lower fat choices thereafter.
Overweight and obesity
The prevalence of being overweight or obese in our society is rapidly increasing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 25 percent of American children are overweight or obese – twice that of the previous generation. This sets in motion a dangerous progression of epidemics in type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and many other chronic diseases. You can make a difference in the life of your child. Using a proactive approach, educating yourself and your child, and using medical intervention if necessary can change the future for your child.
Not just baby fat: the difference between overweight and obese
Overweight is determined by weight in reference to height according to accepted height/weight charts such as the Body Mass Index (BMI) Charts. According to the chart, a BMI of 25-29.9 is considered overweight. Obesity, on the other hand, is a clinical condition that occurs when an individual's BMI is more than 30. Treatment for both must be accompanied by strong nutritional and behavioral changes. Obesity may require significant medical intervention including medication and possibly surgery. For more information on defining and understanding overweight and obese, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/obesity/defining.htm.
What do I do about my child’s weight?
Obesity and overweight can be complicated issues to tackle with your child, but help is available. The sooner your start, the sooner you will be able to improve your child’s heath and eating habits. Here are some simple suggestions to help:
Practice steps 1-5 in the Ways to encourage a healthy weight for your child section.
Be persistent. Overweight and obesity don’t happen overnight and won’t be repaired overnight. Small changes may not seem to make much difference at first, but eventually they will. According to the American Dietetic Association, a healthy weight loss is 1 to 2 pounds per week.
Consult a professional. If behavior modification doesn’t help, or if your child is already obese, working closely with your pediatrician is important. Your pediatrician may recommend that your child meet with a registered dietitian and/or a psychologist to assist with modifying your child’s eating habits, body image, and improving her health.
One of the biggest problems our society faces is portion control. We have been trained to believe that bigger is better and that we need more to be satisfied. This is simply not true. Understanding portion control and listening to our body when it is full is an important part of weight management.
The giant portions we receive in many restaurants and fast food establishments aren’t really a deal when they cause us to consume huge amounts of fat and calories. See the American Dietetics Association web site at www.eatright.org for more information on portion size. Consult the Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children to see examples of portion sizes for children at http://www.usda.gov/cnpp/KidsPyra/PyrBook.pdf.
It takes approximately 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full. A good habit is to wait 20 minutes before having a second helping to be sure you really are hungry.
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: Defining Obesity
A part of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this site addresses obesity and overweight to help individuals understand the conditions.
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: Body Mass Index
A part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this site explains Body Mass Index (BMI) for children and how it applies.
"Obesity," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2002
U.S. Department of Agriculture's Tips for Using the Food Guide Pyramid
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children includes information on serving sizes for children as well as suggestions on good selections from each food group.
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