Krista Harper is a freelance writer and yoga instructor in Southern California. She regularly covers lifestyle, mental health, and nutrition topics and has a passion for helping people create balance in their lives. Kris’s ta shared with Healthy Lombard that despite receiving a lot of media attention, childhood obesity remains a problem in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 14% of children age two through five are obese, and its prevalence jumps to over 18% for the 6 to 11-year-old demographic, and over 20% for ages 12 through 19. And with U.S. obesity continuing to grow, the disease shows no signs of slowing anytime soon. Obesity is contributing to health problems not usually seen in children, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
What causes obesity, and what can parents do to prevent it, or help an overweight or obese child? Read on to learn more.
Causes of Obesity
Some researchers believe that genetics and hormone imbalances are contributing to childhood obesity. While these two factors can certainly affect weight, there are many things about modern society that make it difficult for children to maintain a healthy weight. These include:
An Unhealthy Diet
An unhealthy diet that contains a lot of fast and processed foods is a leading cause of childhood obesity. A 2017 survey found that many U.S. children go days without eating any vegetables. Parents should strive to feed their kids balanced meals that contain enough servings of produce, lean protein, and dairy products while limiting sugary foods and drinks.
Not Enough Exercise
American children are spending more time on mobile devices and playing video games than ever before. This sedentary lifestyle means that children are not as active as they could be.
Obesity tends to be higher among lower-income demographic groups, because they may be buying more processed and frozen foods that cost less and will last longer.
How to Combat Childhood Obesity
Parents need to be proactive when it comes to helping their child maintain a healthy weight. Some tips to follow include:
Eating Healthy Meals, and Getting Kids Involved
Parents should plan healthy balanced meals that include lean protein, produce, grains, and dairy products. Preparing meals together and getting kids involved in making recipes will make them want to taste the finished dish. Introduce young children to unfamiliar foods so that they’ll be open to trying new flavors; they will carry this habit with them into adulthood.
Kids also mimic their parents’ behavior, so when they see you enjoying healthy foods they may feel encouraged to follow your lead. Be mindful of portion sizes as well—many people eat more than the recommended servings of their favorite foods.
Limit Treats, Soda, and Other Sugary Snacks
Soda, candy, cookies, and other sweet items should be consumed sporadically and considered a treat, not a daily indulgence. Consider only enjoying a special dessert a couple of times a week and a glass of soda on the weekend.
Enjoying Physical Activity Together
Plan family time that involves doing fun physical activities such as riding bikes, walking, hiking, or playing a sport versus being on the computer to encourage kids to be more active.
Getting Kids to Bed On Time
There is a definite connection between sleep and weight loss. When we are sleep deprived, we tend to crave carbs and sugary snacks which can pack on weight. That’s because not getting enough sleep disrupts hormones that regulate our appetite. Young children need between ten and 12 hours of sleep each night to feel their best.
What Not to Do
You definitely don’t want to body or weight shame your child into losing weight. Instead, use positive encouragement and praise when they make healthy food choices, such as grabbing an apple instead of potato chips. You also don’t want to label certain foods as completely off-limits. You should still allow your child to enjoy them on occasion, as long as the rest of their diet is healthy and meeting nutritional needs naturally.
Healthy Lombard is a village-wide initiative created to address childhood obesity and promote healthy living alternatives. Check out our calendar of events to learn what fun activities and programs we have coming up that help kids and families stay active and healthy.