In the past 30 years, childhood obesity has risen substantially—and it’s tripled for kids ages 6 and older. Today, one in three children is obese or overweight. Many factors are contributing to the growing childhood obesity epidemic: larger portions, increased availability of high-calorie foods devoid of nutrients, limited access to affordable healthy foods, a more sedentary lifestyle and lack of breastfeeding support (breastfeeding may help prevent childhood obesity).
This is a concern, as obese children are 70 percent more likely to become obese adults. As a result, they are at greater risk of chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, some cancers, and more.
As a parent, you can help your child maintain a healthy weight. Start by adopting these healthy habits:
Pack nutritious snacks
Send your kid to school with healthy snacks, like carrot sticks and hummus or apple slices and peanut butter. Encourage nutritious snacking at home by keeping a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter and stocking the pantry with trail mix ingredients (nuts, raisins, sunflower seeds).
Limit screen time
Kids ages 8 to 18 spend an average of 7½ hours per day consuming media, such as TV, internet and video games. Set limits on how much screen time your child can have each day or week.
The CDC recommends that children get 60 minutes of activity a day, most of which should be aerobic. Take a family walk or a bike ride after dinner. Sign your kid up for soccer or gymnastics. Ask your child what he enjoys and try to incorporate that activity, whether it’s jumping rope or indoor rock climbing, into your schedule.
Plan healthy meals
Include your children in the weekly meal prep and cooking to empower them to be more mindful of what they’re putting into their bodies. Together, sift through recipe books or look online for healthy dinner ideas. (Home-cooked dishes are typically more nutritious than restaurant fare.) Then, ask your kids to act as your sous-chefs in the kitchen. Once it’s time to set the table, watch those portion sizes.
Get involved at school
If your child’s school is filled with empty calories, talk with an administrator about the available options. You may be able to bring more nutritious food to the cafeteria or replace the soda and chips with healthier picks in the vending machine. For more ideas on how to create a healthier school, visit LetsMoveSchools.org.
Set a good example
Your habits, for better or worse, influence your children. If little ones see you eating healthy and staying active, it will be easier for them to follow suit. You can’t control the community or run the school lunchroom, but you can try raising a healthy kid by establishing a healthy environment at home.
For more tips and support in managing your child’s weight, make sure to talk with your child’s health care provider.