The Childhood Obesity Epidemic (continued)
In our last blog we discussed the possible causes for childhood obesity and why it is such a huge issue. In this blog we will discuss possible solutions for the obesity epidemic.
So what can be done to help prevent childhood obesity? It is important to understand that some children may be more prone to gaining extra weight due to family history including genetics, slower metabolism, and family eating habits. Steps can be taken from the point of infancy to help reduce the risk of childhood obesity. The World Health Organization has an infant growth chart which helps you track your baby’s growth. This can give helpful insight if a parent is concerned that an infant is not getting enough to eat because the child is being fussy, thus reducing overfeeding.
Obesity is often a result of too few calories being expended for the amount being consumed. Therefore, for children it is important to promote a balance of healthy activity and food consumption. Americans are consuming 30 times the amount of sugar that they were 300 years ago. Sugar, including high fructose corn syrup found in soft drinks, is addictive thus resulting in more and more consumption. Processed and fast foods are also an unhealthy choice and increase the risk of developing obesity. The following list provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics gives suggestions for improving your child’s eating habits and activity level.
- Encourage an active lifestyle at home, childcare, and school
- Talk to your pediatrician about developing healthy eating habits (ex. minimizing/eliminating juice and soda, offering a variety healthy foods like vegetables and fruits, avoiding processed foods)
- Early on encourage eating a variety of healthy foods and let your child decide when they are full – taste preferences can change over time and can take a child trying something new up to 10 times before enjoying it
- Choose nutritious snacks such as vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy foods, and whole grains
- Have your child sit at the table and turn off the TV while eating, including family meal time – excessive TV viewing takes away from physical activity, commercials can lead to craving unhealthy foods, and kids tend to eat more when watching TV
- Keep open communication throughout the school year
- Family walks help with communication and physical activity
Remember that children observe more than you realize. Parental habits often carry over to their children. So, if you as a parent lead a healthy lifestyle of physical activity and healthy eating, your child will more likely follow that path.