Obesity in children is on the rise and has become a growing problem in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has increased over 21% in children aged 6 to 11 years old and 19% in 12 to 19 year old children.
This increase is significant, and research has also shown that these same children are at high risk for many health related conditions. The following list of medical problems can often be directly associated with childhood obesity:
- Cardiovascular problems
- Type II diabetes
- Sleeping problems
- Psychological problems
- High blood pressure
- Joint problems
- Liver disease
Ten Step Program
Now that you have read the bad news, it’s time for the good news. You can take steps to help prevent obesity in children by following simple yet effective methods.
Although there are some genetic causes for obesity in children, most of the time it’s caused by eating more calories than the body expends. The below list encompasses behavioral as well as dietary factors that need to be considered to help solve the childhood obesity epidemic:
1. Portion Size
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advice that portion sizes in the United States have increased significantly in the past two decades. Many restaurants serve portion sizes that are way too large, which leads to obesity in children.
One way to solve the problem is to ask for a to-go bag at the onset of the meal; and when your meal arrives split it up. This will help reduce some of your child’s caloric intake when eating out.
Although research is fairly straightforward when it comes to portion size, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained that people eat more when they are confronted with large portions of food. It’s pretty simple, less food equates to fewer calories.
2. Sweetened Beverages
Sweetened beverages are a major source of added sugar and calories in many kid’s diets. According to research completed by the US Department of Agriculture’s National Health and Nutrition Survey, fruit drinks and soft drinks account for almost half of the extra sugar in the average American’s diet.
It’s obvious that the sugary drinks offer little nutritional value compared to their sugar and calorie content. For parents, it’s definitely worth limiting these types of drinks in your child’s diet.
We have all done it; sometimes, it feels comforting to grab your favorite snack and plop down in front of the television. The problem is that this eating pattern can often be a quick trip to obesity for your child. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill professor Barry Popkin, explained in a recent study on kids and snacks that snacking has added 168 extra calories a day for children over the last 25 years.
You don’t have to cut out snacks entirely to solve this problem. Just limit your kid’s intake of snacks and make sure that snack time includes healthy alternatives. Ditch the bag of chips for some apple slices.
4. Eating Out
There are two inherent problems with eating out. First, the portion sizes are frequently too large and this causes your children to eat more. In addition, many menu options are often high in fat and calories.
Due to increased pressure, many fast food restaurants and dining establishments now offer healthy alternatives. When eating out, try to pick these healthy choices for your kids.
5. Lack of Exercise
The US Department of Health and Human Services states that children should participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily. Exercise and activity not only helps to control a child’s weight, it also provides numerous physical and mental health benefits.
Studies have shown that children who are active tend to stay active. They are frequently less sedentary than kids that don’t exercise. Encourage your child to participate in activities that hold their interest.
6. Skipping Breakfast
The old adage of breakfast being the most important meal of the day is still true. Research has shown that children who take the time to eat breakfast are actually less hungry throughout the day.
Eating breakfast reduces fat intake and has the added benefit of keeping your child more alert in class during the day.
7. Television and Video Games
Too much television and video games go hand-in-hand. Ultimately, they are both responsible for lack of physical activity and obesity in children. When your child is in front of the TV, time can just melt away. Unfortunately, while time may be melting away, the calories aren’t.
A good plan of action is to control the length of time your child watches TV and plays video games. Set a limit of two hours a day, or whatever time you think is adequate.
8. Parental Example
A good leader always leads from the front. In other words, if you want your child to be active, you need to get moving yourself.
Find activities that your child might enjoy and participate with them. This will help both of you burn calories and can also build rapport at the same time.
9. Family Meals
Take the time to have sit-down meals with their children. A recent study by the University of Illinois revealed that children who ate at least three family meals together during the week were less likely to have eating disorders than kids that ate less frequently with their families.
During these meals, the family can talk about the day’s events while taking their time eating.
10. Action Plan
If your children suffer from obesity, consult a doctor or nutritionist and develop an action plan to help control the obesity in children.
A disciplined diet, exercise and physical activity program along with proper behavioral choices can make a dramatic difference in this serious health condition. Set weekly goals and give your children rewards when they achieve these goals.