Childhood obesity is a health epidemic that continues to impact America’s homes and schools, and is currently estimated to affect one in five children nationwide. Though statistics from the CDC show that numbers have remained relatively stable in recent years, the total figure has more than tripled since the 1970s.
Because obesity can potentially lead to chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, elevated cholesterol, self-esteem issues, and more, it is critical that nurturing, unconditional support is made available to children at every stage of growth – from their home life to their education to involvement with their pediatric provider.
Regardless of whether your child is overweight, a healthier lifestyle is a key factor in reversing the trend of childhood obesity. This can only begin with sound dietary choices and regular exercise. In recognition of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month this September, we have offered a few suggestions for creating a healthier environment and – ultimately – healthier children at home.
- Make gradual dietary changes – Drastic, wholesale shifts in your family’s dining habits are likely to be met with resistance and resentment. Instead, make small, incremental alterations, such as ordering carryout less frequently, drinking water instead of soda and other sugary beverages, and voting together on new, healthier recipes to try.
- Heap on the vegetables – Have finicky eaters who swear off all greens? Sauces can be a great way to slip some leafy veggies past their radar. Or better yet, try a smoothie. Let the kids help with the blender! Fruit is an important consideration, too. Have options like bananas, apples, and grapes on hand to satisfy your sweet tooth’s cravings – and definitely as an after-school snack.
- Lay off the fruit juice – The American Academy of Pediatrics believes fruit juice consumption to be a contributing cause to childhood obesity, in addition to dental concerns and gastrointestinal maladies. The Academy no longer recommends fruit juice for children younger than one year of age, and encourages whole fruits whenever possible.
- Encourage physical activity – In other words, insist on a break from screens of all sizes and urge your children to play outdoors whenever possible. A mere 40 minutes a day, three to four times per week, can make a world of difference.
- Don’t misplace blame – Weight gain is attributed to a number of different factors, including genetics, a lack of healthy or appropriate food choices, and even air pollution. Solutions to a problem never stem from pointing fingers, but by working as a team to make the best, most productive decisions.
- Understand that there are no “quick fixes” – And those that are advertised – including diet fads, pills, and many shakes or beverages – can negatively impact one’s health.
- Cook colorful meals together – Again, we’re all in this together. So set your goal, rally your team, and get to it! Typically, the more colors that appear on a plate, the healthier the meal. Pick recipes with your family and delegate mixing, stirring, and ingredient duties. Children love to help create. They will also be far more likely to try the food they had a hand in preparing.
As always, have fun. Be safe. If you have questions, our pediatric specialists are always happy to oblige.