Preventing Childhood Obesity

Child obesity rates are rising. According to the American Obesity Association, obesity among children and teens is reaching epidemic levels. About 30% of children and teens are overweight and 15% are obese. Children, who are overweight, with at least one overweight parent, are 79% more likely to be overweight as adults. Along with the poor self-image that often accompanies obesity children who are obese are at a greater risk for asthma, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and damage to bones and cartilage.

The key to preventing childhood obesity is diet and exercise. Today’s children spend less time exercising than any other generation. Recess and P.E. are being eliminated in schools and the prevalence of computers, gaming systems, and television invite children to sit rather than be active.

Preventing childhood obesity starts by helping your child make good diet choices like cutting back on the sweets and treats that you buy. If it is not available at home your child is less likely to eat it. Replace the sweets with healthy snacks like yogurt, cheese, fruit, and nuts. Don’t allow soda or juice in your home on a daily occurrence. Soda is full of calories and other ingredients that are not good for growing bodies and most juices are high in sugar as well.

Try and cook homemade meals for preventing childhood obesity. Fast food is loaded with calories and contains little nutrition. If you do eat out make healthy choices like Subway instead of McDonalds.

Exercise is important and every person should exercise for at least twenty minutes each day. Exercise doesn’t have to be boring. Your child can get exercise by riding their bike, jumping on the trampoline, jumping rope, rollerblading, dancing or playing tag.

Exercise as a family. Make exercise fun by doing things together as a family. It is hard enough for an adult to set a daily exercise routine and actually follow it. So help your child by exercising with them. (It’s good for you too.) Dance with your child or go outside and kick around a soccer ball. Talk a family walk. Go ice-skating or roller-skating. Visit the pool and go swimming.

Enroll your child in an activity that requires physical movement. You might try ice-skating, karate, dance, swimming, gymnastics, or team sports like soccer or basketball.

Many parents do not realize that their child is overweight and thus steps for preventing childhood obesity never start. They chalk it up to “big bones,” “baby fat,” or insist that their child is just “sturdy.” Parents need to evaluate their child’s weight. You can use a weight calculator like the one at Keeping Kids Healthy to evaluate your child’s Body Mass Index. As a parent you input your child’s height, weight, age, and gender and based on the criteria the calculator compares your child’s BMI against a healthy range. If the BMI is too high your child is considered overweight or obese.

At this point it is important to intervene for preventing childhood obesity. Most nutritionists feel that for children dieting is not the key. The best thing to do is help your child maintain their current weight as they grow in height. As long as they do not add additional weight as they add inches their body will naturally thin out. The key is to help your child make better food choices and exercise at least twenty minutes each day.

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