tips on preventing childhood obesity
- In the last 30 years childhood obesity has doubled in this country, and quadrupled in adolescents.
- This is not just a domestic issue, it is a epidemic throughout the world.
- In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.1
There are many factors that have led this increase in obesity rates: the use of processed foods has increased: which is higher in calories, fats, and salts. Sugar has been replaced with Corn syrup, and individual’s intake more of these beverages. Portions are much larger than 20 years ago. Family dynamics have shifted, in many homes both parents are working and time is essential. We go for quicker options. There is a myth that healthy foods are more expensive than unhealthy foods. Access to healthier options is a problem for many communities throughout the United States. Lack of education is a huge factor in this country as well as internationally.
Childhood obesity can increases risk factors for: Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, depression and low self esteem.
I think we can spend more time helping families understand how to prevent this all together.
Her are some tips to follow to prevent childhood obesity:
- START AS EARLY AS INFANCY!
- Provide structure around how many bottles are given per day, not just when the baby fusses.
- Definitely start vegetables before fruits, so that your children acquire those flavors.
- Be mindful of how much whole milk your children get after 1 year of age. Try to limit less than 16 ounces.
- Emphasize the structure regarding meal times, snack time and milk.
- Switch to 1% milk after 2-3 years of age.
- Try to stay away from junk food and sweet drinks (including juice) early in childhood
- Very important that as soon as your child comprehends numbers and learning to read, you as a parent can start looking at food labels together, and follow serving size. That way you have instilled the idea of portions to your children.
- No meals or snack in front of TV
- Attempt to eat as a family, studies show that children who do this are not as likely to become obese, and self esteem is also better in these children.
- No food in your child’s room
- Cook together if your children are old enough, and have them involved with grocery shopping
- From a younger age, only offer the meals you have cooked. If you start letting your child refuse the meal you prepared, they most likely will eat a higher calorie, unhealthy alternative.
- Always allow your children the time to play outside or be physically active, whether it is to play tag, run around outside, play a sport, something to stay active.
- Limit TV, computer, phones, Ipads, tablets, any screen time to 1-2 hours per day.
These are very general interventions families can start early so that children are aware of the structure at home. In my experience as a practitioner in the Obesity Program, more conflicts arise among family members if you start late. Make healthy choices fun, and allow your children to make their choices with the options your provide.