Four Ways To Conquer Childhood Obesity

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There’s good news about obesity in children: It’s reversible. No doubt childhood obesity is serious. It can cause lifelong medical issues including low self-esteem and depression. It also significantly increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, asthma, and sleep apnea. The American Heart Association reports that obese children have an 80 percent chance of remaining obese for life.

But obesity is reversible. As a parent you can turn things around for your children who are overweight. And in doing so you can also help yourself and other family members who may also be overweight.

What Causes Obesity In Children?

While genetics may play a role for some kids, lifestyle is the major reason. That’s good news. It means that every day is a new opportunity to make changes that can eliminate obesity in your family. Ask your child’s doctor if you think there is a reason other than lifestyle that is causing your child to be obese.

How Can I Reverse Obesity In My Child?

Here are four important ways that you can help your children turn the corner on losing weight and improving their health:

  1. Know your child’s BMI. You can determine if your children are at a healthy weight by calculating their Body Mass Index (BMI). Popular with doctors, the tool uses each child’s height and age to determine if their weight is normal or if they are underweight, overweight, or obese. Use this BMI Calculator for Children and Teens by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine if your child is a healthy weight. Then you can act accordingly.
  2. Eat and drink healthier. When your children develop healthy eating habits at a young age, chances are they’ll continue to follow healthy diets as they enter adolescence and adulthood. Healthy eating includes fresh, whole foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains including whole wheat pastas and breads, low-fat dairy, lean protein like beans, tofu, nuts and fish, and very little sugar. It also means less salt, caffeine, and processed foods — all of which can contribute to high blood pressure in children.

    There are several good reasons why your child should eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Not only are they loaded with important vitamins and minerals, they also are packed with fiber that fills them up and makes them less likely to overeat. Fruits and veggies make great snacks. too.
  3. Don't let your children skip breakfast. This important meal kickstarts their metabolism, helps burn more calories, and prevents overeating later in the day. And monitor what they’re drinking. Most youth don’t drink the recommended amount of water. Seven cups a day is the goal for 4- to 8-year-olds; 9- to 13-year-olds need nine or 10 cups a day; and teens need 10 to 14 cups a day, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Soda, sports drinks, and juice drinks are not healthy alternatives, as they generally are loaded with sugar. Stick with water or low-fat milk instead.
  4. Get active. Regular exercise burns calories, builds muscle, and keeps the weight off. Children under age 18 need at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day to stay healthy, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Exercise that is moderate to vigorous is best. This can include jogging with the dog, bicycling, playing sports, or anything else that increases their heart rate and causes them to break a sweat.
  5. Becoming more active also means reducing screen time. Kids who spend a lot of time in front of screens are more likely to be overweight. Set reasonable limits on the amount of time your kids spend watching TV, playing video games, and using computers, phones, and tablets not related to school work.
  6. Be a good role model. Your children are more likely to eat better and get more physically active if they see you practicing a healthy lifestyle. When you're having a healthy snack or a balanced meal, or drinking water instead of soda, your children are more likely to follow your lead. If you want your kids to be more physically active, get moving along with them. When kids see their parents breaking a sweat, they’re going to rise to the challenge — and the entire family will benefit.

To learn more about how you can prevent childhood obesity, talk to your doctor or health care provider, or search for a provider.

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