National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month
Obesity is a major public health problem. Since 1980, childhood obesity rates have more than doubled. In the United States, 17% of children are obese, while 1 in 3 are overweight or obese. These children are more likely to become obese adults, which puts them at risk for lifelong health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and certain cancers.
There is no single solution for this epidemic, but National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month is an opportunity to make improvements and learn more about prevention.
Who is at risk?
A variety of factors influence childhood obesity. The most common reasons include:
• Consumption of high calorie snacks, fast food and beverages (including sodas)
• Lack of affordable, healthy foods
• Too much time watching TV, playing video games or being sedentary
• Inadequate physical activity and limited access to parks and recreation
• Genetic factors and family lifestyle
• Not enough sleep, or lack of regular bedtime routine
How can you try to prevent childhood obesity?
Begin by making a lifestyle change and encouraging healthier eating habits. Get rid of high-calorie temptations (including food with added sugar and fat) and offer more nutritious, lower calorie foods such as fruits and vegetables. Also, eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages, and have your child drink more water instead. Keep track of calorie intake, and reward progress with fun activities instead of dessert.
Help your child understand the benefits of physical activity, and reduce “screen time” by limiting the amount they watch TV or sit and play with tablets, phones or computers. Exercise as a family. There are a variety of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities kids can do that don’t look or feel like traditional exercise. Consider enrolling your child in a local team sports league or sign up for recreational classes, such as swimming, karate, skateboarding or gymnastics. Also, make sure your child gets adequate sleep.
How can you make one positive change?
Last week, we shared information about the importance of eating breakfast. Children who skip a morning meal are more likely to become overweight. It’s a good to eat something small within an hour after waking up. Your best option is a variety of foods that contain complex carbohydrates, protein, a little healthy fat and fiber. Here’s why: carbs provide instant energy, protein offers sustained energy, and fiber helps you feel full.
The Mayo Clinic suggests a whole-grain or high-fiber cereal with fruit and a splash of milk, plus a glass of 100% juice. Nuts, peanut butter, whole-grain granola bars, eggs, low-fat yogurt and breakfast smoothies are all good options as well. And if your child balks at more traditional breakfast foods, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics said even a sandwich or a slice of pizza can make a decent breakfast.
By starting small with a healthy breakfast, and perhaps a walk around your neighborhood after dinner, you can take steps to prevent or diminish obesity.