Helping to prevent childhood obesity

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness month.

According to the CDC, about 1 in 5 American children has obesity. Compared to children with healthy weight, children with overweight or obesity are at a higher risk for asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Children with obesity are also more likely to experience bullying, social isolation, depression, and lower self-esteem. For most children, overweight is the result of unhealthy eating patterns (too many calories) and too little physical activity. While there isn’t one simple solution, there are many ways parents and caregivers can help children reach and maintain a healthy weight.

1. Eat the Rainbow
Having a healthy diet can help children get the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development, and help them reach and maintain a healthy weight. A healthy diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat or fat-free dairy. Make half of your child’s plate fruit and vegetables. For more information and guidance on healthy eating routines, visit MyPlate.

2. Move More
Compared to those who are inactive, physically active youth have stronger muscles and better cardiovascular fitness. They also typically have lower body fat and stronger bones. Children ages 3 through 5 years old should be active throughout the day. Children and adolescents ages 6 through 17 years old should be physically active at least 60 minutes each day. Regular physical activity in childhood can also help reduce the risk of depression and increase self-esteem. Add physical activity to your own routine and ask your child to join you.

3. Eat Less Sugar
Most of us eat and drink too many added sugars, which can lead to health problems such as weight gain and obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Children under age 2 should have no added sugar in their diet, and children over age 2 should keep sugars to less than 10% of their daily calories.

One of the best ways to slow down on sugar is by helping your children make better drink choices such as water, low-fat milk or 100% juice instead of soda, juice drinks and flavored milk. For options, to help encourage your child to drink more water, visit RevYourBev.

4. Reduce Screen Time
Too much screen time (which includes phones, tablets, computers, watching TV or playing video games, etc.) can lead to consequences that affect your child’s health, such as poor sleep, weight gain, poor mental health and lower grades in school. Screen time should be limited to no more than two hours per day (the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend TV for children two years old and younger). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends creating a family media planexternal icon and offers examples such as technology free meal times, charging devices outside of the bedroom, turning screens off an hour prior to bedtime, etc.

5. Get enough sleep
Good, quality sleep is vital in helping to prevent type 2 diabetes, obesity, injuries, poor mental health, and problems with attention and behavior. Children 6-12 years old need 9-12 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. Youth 13-18 need 8-10 hours. Not enough sleep can be associated with obesity because lack of sleep can can make us eat more and be less active. Help make sure your children are well-rested by making sure they’re active during the day, removing screens from their bedrooms, and sticking to a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends.

Be a role model for your child and adopt these habits for yourself also.

In addition, be sure your child has a primary care provider and that you are keeping your child’s annual wellness visits. If you have any concerns regarding your child’s health, write them down to discuss with their medical provider or contact their office in between visits.

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