Childhood obesity rates remain high in the United States of America. Obesity is defined as an accumulation of body fat to the extent of which it may have a negative impact on health, leading to reduced life expectancy, and an increased risk for chronic diseases.
17% of children in the United States ages 2-19 are classified as obese. To be classified as obese the child must have a Body Mass Index above 30. BMI is a representation of height compared to weight, an optimal BMI range is 18.5-24.99, and the BMI chart is commonly used to classify patients in doctor’s offices, for both adult and pediatric practices.
The causes of childhood obesity vary, including a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, genetics, socioeconomic status, to name a few.
The 2 main treatments for obesity include diet and exercise. It is not wise to force a child into an exercise regimen like an adult would follow. It has to be fun and appropriate for your child, if your child is not competitive then do not force competitive sports on them, instead find active things they can do outside of organized sports. Children should engage in leisure play that requires movement daily for at least one hour or more. Taking your child to the park, playing catch, shooting baskets, going for a walk, etc. are all economical ways to encourage activity. Also, limit television, computer, and tablet time to only one hour per day. This will not only encourage more activity but it will also encourage creativity in playing activities.
One important thing to remember is the best guidance is through example, the parents have to lead by example not verbal authority. Practice what you preach. Children are the best observers and they can spot a hypocrite. The “do as I say not as I do” is no way to inspire a child to be active and eat healthy foods. Make small lifestyle changes with your children. Regular park trips or walks for exercise, and eating 5 servings of fruit and vegetables daily are two simple things to do to get started.
Limit sodas and other sugary/salty/processed treats, to specific times. First, educate your children about the downfalls of eating and drinking too much sugar, or sugary products. Talk about rotting teeth, tummy aches and gaining too much body fat. Then, move on to limiting their soda/juice intake, or any other sugary product that they love, to specific times (ie. Like after practice or lessons on Saturdays for lunch). If you do away with soda and sugar all together, chances are your children will be unhappy and quite upset, this keeps it special and will create realistic boundaries.
By allowing sugary treats only during special times, your children won’t feel like you’re punishing them, and they’ll realize that they don’t need to consume their favorite sugary treats all the time.
Plan and cook healthy meals/snacks together as a family. Children love hands on activities, if they help prepare the meal, it is more likely they will eat it. What better way to get your children interested in eating healthy foods than by involving them in cooking healthy meals? Depending on the age of your children, the level of help they can offer will vary. Start by getting them to contribute to your shopping list, have them set the table, mix ingredients, etc. Teaching your children to prepare healthy meals also gets them involved in grocery shopping. Take your children to the store with you. There are many different ways of involving children of all ages in the process of planning and making a healthy meal.
Best of all, spending time together as a family is priceless, memories are never built behind a computer or television. Studies have shown that families who eat meals together are much closer. Planning, preparing and enjoying a family meal together are wonderful ways to not only promote children’s health, but also family harmony.
Always include healthy fats in each meal and snack. Fat is not what makes us gain weight, sugar and processed foods are what packs the pounds on. Incorporating healthy fats from nuts, seeds, nut butters, avocados, hummus and healthy oils will keep your child feeling full for a longer period of time, reducing food cravings for processed snacks that are rich in sodium and sugar. Have raw vegetables with guacamole or hummus as snack, make a healthy trail mix with their favorite nuts, cereal, and dried fruit, or make homemade nutrition bars with almond butter.
An excellent resource in relation to prevention of childhood obesity complete with exercises, recipes and informative articles, by a comprehensive team of health professionals- The Green Box League of Nutritious Justice (ISBN 978-0988316317, Effective Press, 2014) by Dr. Keith Kantor; Peter Crouth, E.C.; Dana Yarn, R.D.; and Karen Kantor, R.N.; with illustrations by Sarah Adam
For more facts on childhood obesity: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE.
Dr. Kantor’s greatly anticipated new children’s book, The Green Box League of Nutritious Justice, is now available. Be sure to order this highly reviewed book, filled with healthy living tips for the whole family. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Children’s Miracle Network.