Simple steps to prevent childhood obesity…we can do it!
We all have heard that childhood obesity is a major health issue in our country. Children who are overweight will be more likely to be overweight adults and develop significant health issues. We hear so much in the media about what to eat, what not to eat, how to cook, how much exercise we all need, and frankly sometimes it is simply overwhelming to parents. We all are busy and many times the drive through at the fast food restaurant just calls our name at the end of a long day. We can develop healthy patterns as families to guide our children to healthy lifestyles. These healthy patterns can be simple…it is just getting started. So, parents….let’s get started!
Breastfeed when possible and no solid foods before 4 months of age…
- A recent study showed that when children were breastfed for at least four months, then the timing of solid food introduction did not affect the obesity rate of the child at age 3. Children who were never breastfed or who stopped breastfeeding before age 4 months and were given solid foods before the recommended 4 months of age were 6 times more likely to be obese by age 3.
Know where your child is…(know where you are too!)
- At your child’s 2 year old well child visit, your pediatrician will calculate his body mass index (BMI). This is a better indicator of weight issues than simply where your child is on the growth chart. A child with a BMI greater than the 85th percentile for his age and sex is overweight, a BMI greater than the 95th percentile determines that your child is obese.
- Children that have parents who are overweight have an increased risk to become overweight too.
Know what a serving size is….
Remember, children need child size portions! A tablespoon per year equals a serving. This is a simple guideline. For a child age 2 to 3:
- Grain Group: About 3 ounces of grains per day, half of them whole grains. That is about three regular slices of bread or one slice of bread plus 1/3 cup cold cereal and ¼ cup cooked rice or pasta.
- Vegetable Group: 1 cup raw and/or cooked vegetables per day. (no ketchup is not a vegetable J, but tomato pasta sauce counts!)
- Fruit Group: 1 cup fresh, frozen, canned, or dried. Juice should be kept at a minimum. Whole fruits are better than juice!
- Dairy Group: 2 cups per day. Whole milk is recommended for children younger than 2, low-fat after age 2.
- Meat and Beans Group: 2 ounces total per day. Options include one ounce of lean meat or chicken plus one egg or 1 ounce of fish plus ¼ cup of cooked beans (black, pinto, etc.).
- Oils: 3 teaspoons or less per day of liquid oil or margarine.
- For more information about eating plans and serving sizes for other aged children, visit MyPyramid.gov.
- Unhealthy snacks fill up small tummies so children don’t eat the nutrient dense foods they need. Try giving fruits and vegetables as snacks. These foods are low-calorie, high fiber, and full of vitamins and antioxidants. Giving these foods when your child is hungry encourages your child to give them a try.
- Juice should be at a minimum…and no soda at all!
- Keep healthy snacks in plain sight. A bowl of fruit on the counter, fresh cut up vegetables on the first shelf in the refrigerator, dried fruit and trail mix in the pantry.
- Don’t let your child eat because of boredom. If your child has eaten well and had a healthy snack but still is begging for more…then suggest another activity. Ask you child what he would like to do besides eat. Help your child distinguish between “I’m bored” and “I’m hungry.”
- Make snack time planned…no grazing throughout the day. Have your child sit on the floor or at the table for snack time. Mindless eating is an unhealthy habit!
- Serve whole-grain breads and cereals.
- Whole milk until age 2 and then low-fat or skim milk after age 2.
- Full fat yogurt until age 2 and then lower sugar and low-fat yogurt.
- Serve lean meats like chicken, turkey, fish and lean beef cuts and pork cuts. Remove fat and skin.
- Bake, broil, poach, grill, or steam when preparing meat, fish, and chicken.
- Use vegetable oils like canola, corn, olive, and sunflower.
- Encourage fresh fruits and vegetables in season, frozen next and canned last. Have fruits and vegetables at EVERY meal.
- Limit fast food to an occasional meal only.
- Treats can include frozen fruit bars, frozen yogurt, low-fat pudding, angel food cake, graham crackers, vanilla wafers, and of course…the occasional Oreo! Balance and moderation are important to teach children so they do not “binge” later.
Don’t force your child to be members of the “Clean plate club”…
- Forcing children to eat everything that is put on their plates often leads to overeating.
- Focus on the quality of the food your child eats and no the quantity. Let your child learn what it feels like to be full and what it feels like to be hungry.
Get your child excited about healthy food….
- Go to local Farmer’s Markets and let them pick out fresh produce.
- Start a garden and grow some vegetables of your own.
- Give them age appropriate jobs in the kitchen. Letting children help prepare healthy foods encourages healthy eating and excitement!
- Get creative and expand everyone’s palates. Try new foods!
Eat breakfast every day…
- Start every day out right with a healthy breakfast. Children often eat their best meal of the day in the morning. Include healthy grains, fruits and proteins to give your child a great start.
- Children and adults who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight.
Establish good sleep habits…
- Making sure your child gets good sleep can help prevent obesity! Research has shown that people who sleep less than the recommended amount gain weight faster. One theory is that fatigue decreases activity or may increase appetite.
Get your child active…60 minutes of active play at least every day…
- Get outside every day.
- Choose developmentally appropriate activities. Be careful about organized sports too early…burnout can happen. Let your child just be a kid and play!!!
- Provide active toys. You should have balls, jump ropes, bikes and other active toys.
- Be a role model. Build physical activity into your daily life so you can keep up with your children and feel better!
- Turn off the TV and limit computer time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours of total screen time a day after age 2. That includes video games, TV, movies, and computers.
There is so much that parents can do to prevent childhood obesity and lifelong weight issues and medical problems. Outdoor play, limited TV, limited fast food, healthy food choices, teaching appreciation for good foods, and soon everyone in the house is feeling better, having fun, and living a healthier lifestyle. We can do this Moms and Dads!
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
- Posted in: Childhood illness ♦ Fun activities for kids ♦ Growth and Development ♦ Nutrition ♦ Uncategorized
- Tagged: childhood obesity, fresh fruits and vegetables, growth and development milestones, healthy choices, healthy eating, healthy habits, infant, nutrition, obesity, overweight children, preschooler, preventing childhood obesity, school age, teen years, toddler, toddler foods, toddler snacks