As September comes to an end, it is important to recognize that this month is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. In the past 30 years, obesity rates have tripled among youth in the United States. There are many factors that contribute to obesity in children, including genetics, physical inactivity, unhealthy eating habits, and other lifestyle factors. Being obese at a young age increases the risk of developing chronic diseases in adulthood. Some of those diseases include high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Fortunately, simple lifestyle changes can go a long way in helping your child maintain a healthy weight now and throughout their life.
Talk to Your Child’s Doctor
If you are concerned about your child’s weight, it is important to first have a discussion with their pediatrician. Oftentimes, children grow in unpredictable spurts, making it challenging to assess their weight. At each yearly appointment, ask your child’s pediatrician to help you determine what a healthy weight is for your child. If interventions are needed, they will be able to guide you on the steps needed to help your child reach a healthy weight.
Model Healthy Eating Patterns
Parents with healthy eating habits set an example for their children; if you eat healthy, they are more likely to eat healthy, too. It is important to stay away from fad diets when promoting healthy eating patterns. Instead, keep the house stocked with healthy foods, incorporate all food groups into your daily meals, and remember that when it comes to sweet treats, moderation is key. Involve your children in meal prepping, cooking, and grocery shopping. Allow them to choose healthy foods they are unfamiliar with and investigate, together, how to incorporate these foods into your family’s meals. When possible, eat meals together at the table and limit distractions such as televisions or phones, which make us more likely to overeat.
Move More and Sit Less!
Children should have 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. To increase your child’s physical activity, encourage them to participate in activities they enjoy, such as sports, gymnastics, and dance. Swap screen time with active family time; instead of watching a show, go for a walk together. Also, keep in mind that technology can be used in a way to promote physical activity. There are many apps that you can download that encourage movement. You can also take pictures of interesting things you see on a walk or learn a new dance routine.
Set a Consistent Sleeping Routine
Depending on a child’s age, they need 8-13 hours of sleep nightly. Not getting enough sleep puts children at risk for unhealthy weight gain. Lack of sleep can lead to less physical activity during the day due to fatigue. Also, children are more likely to reach for unhealthy foods that provide quick energy when they do not get enough sleep. Establishing a nighttime routine that your child can stick to, even on the weekends, will promote good sleeping habits. Avoid screens within the hour before bedtime, and instead, try calming activities such as reading a book or coloring to help them wind down.
Childhood obesity is on the rise in our country. Fortunately, modeling these simple lifestyle changes can help your child reach or maintain a healthy weight. As we incorporate healthy habits into our family’s daily lives, future generations will be less likely to be affected by childhood obesity.
- “Obesity Prevention”. John Hopkins Medicine. The Johns Hopkins University, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Health System. n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2023.
- “Preventing Childhood Obesity: 5 Things Families Can Do”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2023.
- “Preventing Childhood Obesity: Tips for Parents”. New York State Department of Health. New York State Government. n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2023.
- “Stemming childhood obesity requires tackling root causes”. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The President and Fellows of Harvard College. 2 March. 2023. Web. 22 Sept. 2023.