Preventing Childhood Obesity

If you're worried about your child's weight, you may already know that a few extra pounds of baby fat on your toddler can increase over the next few years to become a full-blown weight problem. And because overweight kids often grow up to become overweight adults, the sooner you make some changes at home, the less likely your child is to suffer this fate.

Obesity in Children: A Growing Problem

The scary fact is that obesity in children is a growing public health problem in the United States. The US Centers for Disease Control reports that 16 percent of youngsters between the age of 6 and 19 are overweight or obese. This problem fueled in large part by a life style that promotes super sized portions, sugary snacks and too much time sitting inside in front of the television or computer.

Regardless of the cause, the results are particularly worrisome when you realize all we know today about the link between obesity in children and other serious health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, stress and high blood pressure.

Taking a Healthy Approach

The good news is that you can take control and help your child make smarter choices that will be good for his health, both now and also later, too.

Remember that your child didn't become overweight for any one reason, but rather from a compilation of negative habits has led to this situation. Therefore, responding with a multi-faceted approach is often the most effective strategy. Also think in terms of making changes that your entire family can embrace. This can include things like making nutritious meal and snack choices, limiting sugar, fat and portion sizes and becoming more physically active.

Lighten Up

Please review some of the suggestions below for easy ways you and your family can start lightening up today and feeling great.

  • Plan meals that are high in lean protein and low in saturated fats.
  • Make vegetables the focus and meat, fish or chicken the side course.
  • Pay attention to portion control.
  • Involve children in the meal planning and preparation.
  • Limit sweets and fast food to special occasions, not every day.
  • Make healthy snacks such as fruit and carrot sticks readily available.
  • Plan active outings, such as a family walk, hike or trip to the local park.
  • Delegate chores. Vacuuming, washing the car and mowing the lawn can burn calories.
  • Keep TV, computer time and other periods of inactivity to a minimum.

Sustained Activity is Best

It's also important to pay attention to how your child's activity happens, according to researchers at Queen's University in Ontario, Canada. In a May 2009 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the results reveal that children who are active in bursts of five-minute or longer increments reap more health benefits than their peers who are active in segments of four minutes or less, even when the activity for both groups add up to the same totals at the end of the day. Keep this in mind as you strive to meet the current US recommended guidelines for kids of 60 minutes of activity each day. It can make a real difference in your child's health and weight.


American Journal of Preventive Medicine

US Centers for Disease Control

Kids Health from Nemours