Childhood obesity is an epidemic in the United States that hinders the future health of Americans. Being overweight or obese can affect a child’s emotional and physical well-being. Obesity represents an excess of body fat relative to lean muscle mass. Here are some quick statistics regarding childhood obesity:
- According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2011-2014), 36% of adults and 17% of youth are considered obese. In this study, there was no difference in the incidence of obesity between boys and girls.
- One in every three kids, ages 2-19 years, are considered overweight.
- Among all children with Type II Diabetes Mellitus, 80% were obese.
- Eight percent of children ages 8-17 had a total increased total cholesterol of greater than 200mg/dl.
- Obesity increases the risks of developing chronic diseases such as Type II Diabetes Mellitus, Hypertension, Cardiovascular Disease, Depression and Sleep Apnea.
It is important to have your child assessed by a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist to determine if he or she is at risk for obesity, in the meantime, here’s what you can do at home:
- Know the risk factors that are out of your control: A lot of different factors can lead to childhood obesity and weight issues. These include:
- High birth, infancy and adolescent weight – If this is a concern, speak to your child’s pediatrician.
- Age of solid food introduced – The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not introducing solid foods until after 6 months. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends that children be breast or bottle fed for the first 6 months of life.
- Obesity in one or both parents.
- Family history of Diabetes Mellitus II, insulin resistance, and cardiovascular disease
- Poor Sleep – It is important to establish a regular nap and bedtime schedule.
- Know the factors that are in your control: There are several things you can do to combat obesity in your child.
- Do not use foods as a reward or punishment.
- Know the correct portion sizes.
- Eat and prepare meals together as a family.
- Avoid watching television or playing video games while eating.
- Slow down, don’t eat too quickly and eat in a calm setting.
- Do not force child to eat when not hungry or clear plate.
- Avoid high fat and high sugar foods.
- Do not encourage one child to eat differently than another.
- Limit eating out: Portion sizes have increased over the past 20 years. Studies show that children eat an increase in calories when eating out. Restaurants have healthy options but most teens and adolescent choose foods that are higher in fat, sugar, and sodium.
- Breakfast is the most important meal: Eating breakfast will help your child avoid overeating throughout the day. Those who eat breakfast have better school attendance, fewer stomach problems in the morning, concentrate better and have better muscle coordination and improved problem solving skills. Snacks should not be replacements for meals.
- Encourage physical activity: Sports participation helps reduce the risk of obesity. Activity helps metabolism, brain function, and burns calories. Plan active family activities. Limit time in front of the computer and television. Youth ages 6-17 years need 60 minutes of physical activity/day including aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening activities.
- Snack smart: A healthy meal plan includes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Have these foods readily available for snacks. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, for ages 7-14 years of age less than 10 grams of sugar, at least 2 grams of fiber, and less than 2 grams of fat per snack is recommended.
By monitoring your child’s eating behaviors, controlling their environment, encouraging physical activity and portion control can reduce the risk of childhood obesity. Remember, it is important to set a good healthy example for your child. A healthy lifestyle involves the entire family and can help your child achieve a healthy life. Happy eating!
Kristin Wargo Roeder is a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist with the Ozark Community Hospital Health System’s Integrated Care Department. The OCH Health System Integrated Care department provides a higher level of quality care to help improve health, while lowering health care costs for patients. OCH Health System’s Integrated Care department offers healthy eating classes year round. For more information about OCH Health System’s Integrated Care department, or any other services, visit http://www.ochonline.com.