Overeating, lack of exercise, and unhealthy diets are creating an obesity epidemic in children and teenagers across the nation. More than 18% of U.S. children and teenagers are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Why Childhood Obesity Is a Problem
Low self-esteem and bullying issues aren’t the only potential consequences of kids being overweight or obese. They're also more likely to develop more serious health conditions as they age.
A Murdoch Children’s Research Institute research study illustrates the devastating impact obesity can have. The study followed 1,811 children from the first years of life until they were 11 or 12. Children who were overweight as toddlers had:
- Stiffer arteries
- Thicker arterial linings
- Higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome occurs if you have:
- High blood pressure
- Abnormal cholesterol
- High triglyceride levels
- Excess fat around the waist
People who have the syndrome are more likely to suffer heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes.
How Parents Can Help Children Avoid Obesity
As a parent, you strive to keep your kids as healthy as you can. Helping them avoid obesity can go a long way in meeting that goal. Here are a few ways to get kids on track to achieve and maintain a healthier weight.
Make Regular Exercise a Priority
For most days of the week, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:
- 30 minutes of interactive playtime daily for babies
- Three hours of physical activity for children 3-5
- One hour of moderate to vigorous activity for children six and older
Sports and organized activities aren’t the only ways to fight childhood obesity. Your kids can meet activity recommendations by:
- Playing games outside
- Making a homemade obstacle course
- Going for a walk
- Riding bikes
A Custom Plan for Kids
At our Children's Fitness Clinic, a team of specialists develop an individual treatment plan for you and your child.
Limit Screen Time
Given the choice, many kids would rather spend their free time playing digital games, texting with friends, or watching the latest TikTok videos.
Although your children may need their digital devices for schoolwork and socializing, taking a break for an hour or two every day won’t hurt relationships or homework.
Offer Healthy Meals and Snacks
To prevent childhood obesity, kids should limit sugary foods and beverages, high-carbohydrate snacks, and fried foods. These are better choices:
- Whole grain pasta and bread
- Unsaturated fats
- Low-fat dairy products
- Poultry, fish, and lean meats
Does your child have a sweet tooth? Make treats healthier by using half the sugar in recipes for baked goods. You often can’t even taste the difference.
Model Portion Sizes
It’s easy to eat too much when you overestimate portion sizes. For example, these are all one serving:
- 1/2 of a bagel
- 1 cup of dry cereal
- 1 slice of bread
- 1 teaspoon of salad dressing
You can find additional serving sizes through the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Involve Kids in Meal Prep
Your kids may take more interest in healthy eating if they help you plan and prepare meals. Also, you can find plenty of recipes online that are tasty, nutritious, and kid-approved.
Making these lifestyle changes can help keep your children – and the whole family – healthier.
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