According to the CDC one in five children in the U.S. suffers from obesity. Like adults, children who are obese are at increased risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart problems. September is National childhood obesity awareness month, a time dedicated to educating children and parents on how to prevent childhood obesity.
To help children develop healthy eating habits:
- Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, and beans for protein.
- Provide low-fat or non-fat dairy options like cheese or yogurt.
- Serve plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grain foods.
- Urge family members to drink lots of water.
- Limit sugar and saturated fats.
Young people who are physically active typically have lower body fat, sturdier bones, stronger muscles, and are in better cardiovascular health than inactive kids. Regular exercise in childhood can help create a habit of fitness, and also reduces the risk of depression. Kids need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. In addition to being fun, the benefits of physical activity include:
- Lowering blood pressure
- Reducing anxiety and stress
- Increasing self-esteem
- Strengthening muscles and bones
- Helping with weight management
Reduce the sugar
Many of us consume too much sugar. Eating or drinking too much added sugar can lead to health problems such as weight gain, obesity, diabetes type 2, and heart disease. Kids under the age of two should have no added sugar in their diet, and children older than 2 should keep sugar below 10% of their daily calorie intake.
Limit the screen time
Many sedentary hours are spent sitting or lying down in front of a tablet, phone, television, computer, or gaming screen – a.k.a. screen time. Too much screen time has been associated with poor sleep, lack of academic focus, weight gain, and poor mental health. When you decrease screen time, you free up time for exercise or family activities.
Get enough sleep
Good sleep helps with good health. Getting an adequate amount of sleep is essential for preventing type 2 diabetes, mental health issues, injuries, and obesity. Too little sleep is associated with obesity partly because insufficient sleep makes us eat more and be less physically active. Children need more sleep than adults. Young children from ages 6-12 need to sleep for 9-12 hours, and older children ages 13-18 need 8-10 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
While the rate of childhood obesity has continued to increase over the past few years. Obesity is a complex disease with many contributing factors, but there are ways families can help children prevent obesity at home. By learning to develop healthy eating habits and limiting calorie-rich temptations, getting enough sleep, limiting screen time, and increasing physical activity, kids can grow up making healthy choices a habit for their future.
If you’re concerned about your child’s weight, make an appointment to talk to your River Bend Medical Associates family doctor or family practice nutritionist. Children should not be placed on a weight reduction diet without the consultation of a health care professional. Your family health care provider can help you come up with a plan to reduce the rate of weight gain in your child while allowing for normal growth and development.
Proper nutrition is essential to your family’s health and preventing childhood obesity. Maintaining good dietary choices and a healthy lifestyle can strengthen your immune system, reduce stress, promote better sleep, prevent injury, alleviate depression, improve energy levels, and prevent obesity.
For more tips on helping you and your family eat right, schedule an appointment with our nutritionist, we offer one-on-one appointments in person and telehealth! Or call River Bend Medical Associates at 916-392-4000.