It may come as no surprise that childhood obesity numbers continue to increase. Between TV commercials and online ads, kids are presented with unhealthy foods daily. Childhood obesity affects 12.7 million children and adolescents in the United States. Obesity in childhood may lead to high blood pressure and high cholesterol, risk of diabetes, breathing problems, joint problems, and/or liver problems down the road. Childhood obesity may also have a negative effect on your child’s mental and emotional well being, possibly leading to anxiety and depression.
Most children have little control over the food they are fed at home, daycare, and school. It is the parent and caregivers’ responsibility to educate and model healthy eating for children. Read more about tips to implement at home to encourage healthy eating!
• Buy more real food. We all love the convenience of cereal, cookies, chips, and granola bars, but processed food provides little to no nutritional value and are high in calories and sugar. Opt for natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, and meats. Create your own on-the-go snacks including apples and peanut butter, carrots and hummus, or peppers and guacamole.
• Limit sweetened beverages. Instead of fruit juice, soda, and energy drinks, keep a pitcher of water with fresh fruit in the fridge. Other tasty options include flavored sparkling water such as LaCroix or blending milk with bananas or berries for a delicious smoothie!
• Limit Fast food trips to special occasions only. If it is unreasonable to cut back on eating out, make good choices at restaurants such as swapping out French fries for fruits or vegetables. Instead of ordering the macaroni and cheese off the kid’s menu, chose a lighter choice such as chicken and vegetables. Be aware that the portion sizes at restaurants are sometimes double what one should eat. Box up half your child’s dinner to save for dinner the next night.
• Eat meals together. Make dinner a family event by preparing and eating the meal together. Share stories during dinnertime instead of watching TV or playing on the tablet. Eating together can decrease mindless eating.
• No more clean plate club. Allow children to determine when they are full, instead of encouraging finishing the entire plate. Save the leftovers for later if your child becomes hungry again.
• Don’t become a short order cook. Instead of cooking a separate dinner for your kids, make one dinner for all. Create a balanced meal with whole-grain, fruit or vegetable, and a protein. Serve the dishes family style so kids can pick and chose what they want to eat. Kids tend to mimic their parents, so set a good example by eating a little of each dish!
• Get active! Limit TV, computer, and tablet time to 1-2 hours a day and spend the rest of the day playing with your children outdoor riding bikes or swimming at the pool. Click here for outdoor activities
• Allow treats. Banning certain types of food will only make your child want to eat them more. A child can still eat healthy and enjoy some cake and ice cream once in while. Balance is key.
Make eating fun by cooking new recipes together, exploring local farmer markets, and having your child pick out their favorite fruits and vegetables! If you are concerned about your child’s weight, contact your pediatrician today.
"Childhood Obesity Facts." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 Apr. 2017. Web. 18 July 2017.
"Healthy Food for Kids." Help Guide. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 July 2017.
Julie Burns. "15 Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat Better." Parents. Parents, 11 May 2017. Web. 19 July 2017.
Mayo Clinic Staff. "Childhood Obesity." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 17 Nov. 2016. Web. 18 July 2017.