Rates of childhood obesity in the U.S. have tripled since the 1970s, and despite recent optimism that those rates are stabilizing or dropping, the latest evidence proves otherwise.
A study published this year in the journal Pediatrics found that childhood obesity has steadily risen since 1999, with the biggest jumps among kids ages 2 to 5 and teenage girls between 16 and 19. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that about one in five kids and teens between ages 6 and 19 are obese.
This month, Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, we want to remind parents and caregivers that it’s critical that you help your children fight back against statistics like these. Childhood obesity can have wide-ranging side effects, some of which may last into adulthood.
According to the CDC, children with obesity are at a higher risk of acquiring other chronic health conditions such as asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint issues, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. They are also more likely to develop these health issues and others, such as many types of cancer, in adulthood. In addition, obese children are more likely than their peers to suffer from depression, low self-esteem and social isolation.
Here’s how you can help your child avoid obesity and maintain a healthy weight.
- Limit screen time to less than two hours a day. “A great way to limit screen time without your children missing it is to encourage active play and participate with them,” says Erika Petrie, Medical Weight Loss Clinic service coordinator. “Go for a walk with them before or after a meal or take a bike ride as a family.”
- Make sure water is your child’s main beverage and that it is accessible throughout the day. Limit other beverages to one or two per day. A low calorie/low sugar beverage is ideal.
- Let kids help prepare and plan a few meals a week. Create a balanced meal with lean protein, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and milk. Make sure the meals your children build are low sodium and sugar.
- Plan a structured daily schedule, and set a time for dinner that you sit down with the family to eat. “It’s important that you get your children into a routine of when they should eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at a young age,” says Christina Karas, service coordinator at Medical Weight Loss Clinic. “This helps kids avoid bad eating habits that are hard to break when they get older.”
- Make sure your kids have a good breakfast within the first hour or so of waking up. This sets the pace for their day, refueling their body with essential vitamins and nutrients, and giving them energy.
- Portion food groups at mealtime. Do not go back for seconds unless you are still physically hungry and encourage your children to do the same. “Eat slowly and give your body 20 minutes to let your food settle. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to send a message to your stomach to let you know you are full,” Petrie says.
- Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep. Sleep is just as important to your children's development and well-being as nutrition and physical activity. Karas notes that, “The amount and quality of sleep we have can affect our safety, how alert we are, as well as our memories, moods, behavior and learning abilities.”
- Give your children healthy snacks. Stay away from salty sugary snacks such as chips, candy, cookies and cakes. Instead be creative with snack time, and make them fun. One fun idea Petrie and Karas recommend is to spread peanut butter on a slice of whole grain bread, add blueberries for the eyes, a slice of banana for the nose and a sliced apple for the mouth, then make fruit kabobs with the leftover fruit slices.
- Have children help grow their food. Get them involved with planting a garden of fresh herbs and vegetables. “If they help grow and take care of the food they planted they are more likely to eat it or at least try it,” Karas says.
Do you want to get your weight to a healthy level that will help you feel confident in being a role model for your children? Contact Medical Weight Loss Clinic for a free consultation at 248-353-8446 or click here to schedule online.