10 Tips for Preventing Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity is on the rise, with nearly 15% of children in the United States considered obese. There are many factors that contribute to the increase, but the primary problem is that kids eat more than they need, particularly foods high in sugar and fat, and they’re far less active than children in previous generations.
Children (and adults, too) are considered obese if they weigh significantly more (greater than 20%) than their ideal body weight. The sooner in life you learn to get weight under control the better, as childhood obesity can increase the risk for a number of diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Once bad habits are formed, they’re hard to break. Sadly, too many overweight children grow up to be overweight adults.
Overweight children may suffer from low self-esteem, and may be the victims of bullying at school. Preventing childhood obesity promotes happier, healthier children who are more likely to grow into healthy adults.
Here are 10 tips to get your children on the path to a healthy weight:
- Begin at birth. Breastfeeding has been shown to protect children from becoming overweight. But whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, begin good eating habits early by letting your child decide when he’s full, and not forcing him to continue eating. In this way, he’ll learn to self-regulate, and stop eating naturally when he’s full.
- Be a role model. Eat healthy foods, balanced meals, and avoid oversized portions. Eat as many meals as you can in a relaxed manner together as a family. If you want your children to eat a more fruits and vegetables, then show them how it’s done by eating your share, too.
- Don’t join the “clean plate club.” Avoid the sayings of your parents’ generation like “Finish your dinner or you won’t get dessert,” or “Children in China are starving so you need to clean your plate.” It’s best if children learn to eat when they’re hungry and stop eating when they’re full.
- Don’t use food as a reward. Telling your child “If you’re good, you’ll get dessert,” will only set him up for wanting more sweets.
- Limit screen time. Too much time in front of the TV, video games, and the computer means less time being physically active. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 2 hours per day of screen time for children older than 2, and discourages screen time for children younger than 2.
- Get out and play! Running, jumping, dancing, bike riding, and playing catch are all good ways to be physically active. Kids who engage in physical activity are less likely to be overweight. National obesity experts recommend that children get at least 60 minutes of exercise each day.
- Serve up healthy snacks. Fruit slices, raw vegetables, and low-fat dips give children vitamins, minerals and fiber, and help them to maintain a healthy weight.
- Make healthy living a family affair. Cook together with your kids, and discuss healthy food choices and nutrition labels. Go for family walks, bike rides and hikes, and play active games together. Exercise is easier to do when it’s fun and when it’s with others!
- Don’t let eating become a way of dealing with emotional highs and lows. Be aware of times when your child may eat out of frustration or boredom. Talk with your child about his feelings and help him identify his triggers for overeating. Then help him find other ways besides eating to deal with his emotions.
- Check with your child’s doctor. Your doctor can help guide you and your child in adopting healthy eating practices, and can also screen for medical conditions connected to obesity. If your child’s weight is cause for concern, your doctor may recommend that you see a dietician or sign up for a weight management program to help get you and your child on the path to healthy living.
Once you help your children adopt these healthy eating and exercise habits, they’re sure to be on their way to a healthier, happier childhood and adulthood. It’s worth the effort!
Childhood Obesity (California Childcare Health Program)
Childhood Obesity (From Book: Early Childhood Education Today)
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