How You Can Prevent Childhood Obesity
September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and if you don’t know much about the causes and effects of childhood obesity, let me describe it in one word: Scary.
Childhood obesity is epidemic in U.S. children. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the number of obese children has more than doubled in the past 30 years. In 2010, “more than one third of children were overweight or obese.”
What Is Obesity?
Obesity is defined as having too much body fat for one’s height, and is the result of “caloric imbalance.”
Simply translated: too few calories are burned for the amount of calories consumed.
The short- and long-term health effects of childhood obesity are disturbing. Childhood obesity can lead to:
• Cardiovascular disease (high cholesterol and high blood pressure)
• Prediabetes and the development of type II diabetes
• Sleep apnea
• Bone and joint problems
• Poor self esteem
• Increased risk for many types of cancer
These are clearly frightening statistics. So what can be done to address this rampant problem?
Childhood Obesity Prevention Tactic: Exercise
A study published in the September 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrated that kids who exercised 20 to 40 minutes a day for 13 weeks experienced a significant decline in body fat and insulin resistance – both of which are huge red flags for the development of cardiovascular disease (the number one killer in America today) in later life – than those who were sedentary for that same time period.
Remember the “E” word – exercise – doesn’t have to be a chore; it can be fun and involve the whole family. Here are a few tips for introducing fun exercises for kids:
• Play outside for one hour every day (play catch or Frisbee, walk the dog, ride a bike, go swimming)
• Limit TV and video games to less than 2 hours every day
• Exercise as a family: You are role models, mom and dad. Set an example.
Remember this: Fit parents, fit children. Fit dog, fit owner. It’s simple, right?
If you can’t get outside, there are indoor exercises you can do at home. Push-ups, sit-ups and jumping jacks can get the heart rate up and the blood flowing. And don’t forget that indoor fitness equipment such as the Total Gym can completely eliminate any barriers to access to life-saving exercise routines. You can also use some friendly family competition if lack of motivation is preventing you and your children from exercising.
Childhood Obesity Prevention Tactic: Diet
We all know kids prefer tasty, sugary treats to healthier fare such as fruits and vegetables, but did you know that getting them to eat right can be both fun and relatively painless? The first rule for parents is easy: Set a good example with your own healthy eating habits.
Follow these tips to add healthier food to your child’s diet:
• Use leftover veggies to make a scrambled egg, wheat-tortilla burrito for the next day’s breakfast
• Make snack time fun time, by blending fruits into delicious smoothies
• Substitute sugary drinks with water
• Make sure half of your child’s plate contains fruits and vegetables
• Limit the intake of fried foods
• Eat colorful foods. Kids love to see a food rainbow, so make the plate interesting and lively
• Read food package labels and be creative. Foods such as tofu, tomatoes, basil and cinnamon are palette pleasers and packed with daily essential nutrients
• Control portion sizes
• Avoid eating out of boredom
We always like to hear from our readers. So if you have some hidden gems on keeping your kids healthy, let us know in the comments! We are always interested in partnering with you on the path to better health for you and our future generations!
Here’s to your health!
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