Preventing Childhood Obesity
Preventing childhood obesity is one of the hottest topics in health news today. Parents, school districts, and national leaders have all voiced concerns about childhood obesity and news outlets routinely report on this issue.
That's because studies show that one in five children and adolescents in the United States is obese. Additionally, these overweight children are at risk for developing major health problems by the time they are age 20, medical experts say. These problems include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and some cancers, which normally aren't found in adults until age 40 to 60.
These statistics about childhood obesity illustrate how great a problem it is. Fortunately, preventing childhood obesity isn't difficult if parents take an active role. They need to encourage their children to eat only as many calories as they burn. If weight loss is a goal, than they should eat fewer calories than they burn.
A good place for parents to start implementing healthy habits is diet. By preparing three, home-cooked, nutritionally balanced meals a day they can improve their children's health by providing them with the proper nutrients they need to grow and develop. Meals should contain a protein (fish, or low-fat meat), a natural starch (whole grain rice, bread, or potatoes) and a complex carbohydrate, ideally green, leafy vegetables. Snacking should be keep at a minimum and snacks should be healthy. Carrots, celery, fresh fruit and limited amounts of low-fat cheese, are all good choices. In general, fast foods, processed foods, sugary soft drinks, and high-sugar juices should be avoided.
Proper nutrition, however, is only one ingredient in maintaining a healthy weight and kids' health. At least 30 minutes to 60 minutes of exercise a day is equally important for preventing childhood obesity. Parents can play a big role in helping their children get the right amount of exercise.
Here are a few tips for helping your children get exercise to avoid childhood obesity:
- Make exercise fun, so that it's more play and less a chore.
- Get your kids outdoors and away from TV, computers, and video games whenever possible. Studies show that children spend an average of 4.5 hours per day involved in these sedentary activities.
- Let your kids walk or bike to school if the route is safe and weather permits.
- Encourage your child to join a sports team. Most communities have leagues and teams for many sports including soccer, baseball, softball, tennis, and swimming.
- Enjoy regular family outings to parks and playgrounds, and take hikes, ride bikes, and go swimming together.
- Let your children engage in imaginative free play outdoors whenever possible.
Preventing childhood obesity isn't as difficult as it might seem. If you need more help, contact your pediatrician.