To Your Health: Some tips to tackle childhood obesity
BY THE AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION August 12, 2014 10:34AM
Kids should be encouraged to develop healthy eating habits, including consuming a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, according to the American Heart Association. | Supplied photo
Updated: September 14, 2014 6:12AM
Today, about 1 in 3 American kids and teens is overweight or obese, nearly triple the rate in 1963.
With good reason, childhood obesity is now the No. 1 health concern among parents in the United States, topping drug abuse and smoking.
Among children today, obesity is causing a broad range of health problems that previously weren’t seen until adulthood. These include high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol levels. There are also psychological effects: Obese children are more prone to low self-esteem, negative body image and depression.
Excess weight at young ages has been linked to higher and earlier death rates in adulthood. Perhaps one of the most sobering statements regarding the severity of the childhood obesity epidemic came from former Surgeon General Richard Carmona: “Because of the increasing rates of obesity, unhealthy eating habits and physical inactivity, we may see the first generation that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.”
So how can you help the children in your life achieve and maintain a healthy weight? Balance is key. Balance the calories your child eats and drinks with the calories used through physical activity and normal growth.
Overweight and obese children and teens should reduce the rate of weight gain while allowing normal growth and development. Don’t put your child on a weight-reduction diet without talking to your health care provider.
Help kids develop healthy
Offer your kids nutritious meals and snacks with an appropriate number of calories. You can help them develop healthy eating habits by making dishes healthier and by reducing calorie-rich temptations.
Encourage healthy eating habits: Small changes can lead to a recipe for success! Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole-grain products. Include low-fat or nonfat milk or dairy products. Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils and beans for protein. Serve reasonably sized portions. Encourage your family to drink lots of water. Limit sugar-sweetened beverages, sugar, sodium and saturated fat.
Make favorite dishes healthier: Some of your favorite recipes can be healthier with a few changes. You can also try some new healthy dishes that might become favorites too! You can find heart-healthy tips and recipes by visiting www.heart.org.
Remove calorie-rich temptations: Treats are OK in moderation, but limiting high-fat and high-sugar or salty snacks can also help your children develop healthy eating habits. Here are examples of easy-to-prepare, low-fat and low-sugar treats that are 100 calories or less: a medium-size apple, a medium-size banana, one cup of blueberries, grapes, carrots or broccoli, or bell peppers with two tablespoons of hummus.
Help your kids understand the benefits of being physically active: Teach them that physical activity has great health benefits, such as strengthening bone, decreasing blood pressure, reducing stress and anxiety, and increasing self-esteem.
Help kids stay active: Children and teens should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week, and every day if possible. You can set a great example! Start adding physical activity to your own daily routine and encourage your child to join you.
Examples of moderate-intensity physical activity include brisk walking, playing tag, jumping rope, playing soccer, swimming and dancing.
Reduce sedentary time: Although quiet time for reading and homework is fine, limit “screen time” (TV, video games, Internet) to no more than two hours a day. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend TV for kids age 2 or younger.
Encourage your children to find fun activities to do with family members or on their own that simply involve more activity.
For more information on ways to keep your family healthy, visit the American Heart Association’s website at www.heart.org.