Childhood Obesity Month: Raising Healthy Kids Begins at Home

Sep 17, 2019

childhood obesity month tips for healthy kids
Did you know that nearly one in five children in the United States are obese? Childhood obesity continues to be a serious public health problem, one parents and healthcare providers must address together.

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, a month set aside to raise awareness about the serious issue of childhood obesity, and what parents and their communities can do to put children on a path toward a healthier life.

What are the dangers of childhood obesity?

Children who are obese often suffer from a wide range of health issues along with social issues such as bullying and isolation, leading to long-term issues like depression, negative body image and low self-esteem. Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults, increasing risk for health concerns in adulthood such as: type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and even some cancers. Obese children are also more likely to be at greater risk for bone and joint problems as well as sleep apnea.

Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, made a sobering statement in regards to childhood obesity. He said, “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."

What causes childhood obesity?

Generally speaking, obesity is the result of caloric imbalance — too many calories are consumed and too few are expended. There are also genetic, behavioral and environmental factors at play. Some of these contributing factors include:

Screen time — Today’s children spend far too much time watching television or playing games on digital devices. The average child spends 30-40 hours a week watching a screen.

Poor sleep habits — Children need at least eight hours of sleep each night (if not more), but many children get far less sleep for any number of reasons.

Lack of physical activity — Many children do not have access to community centers or gyms where they can participate in physical activity and physical education and recess in schools has been all but wiped out across the board.

Easy access to unhealthy food and beverages — This is the fast food generation. Many people find it more convenient and easier than preparing food at home. And, without a doubt, food served by the fast food industry is high in calories, sugar and fat, and lacking in essential nutrients. Sugary beverages such as juices and sodas also contribute to the epidemic.

Lack of access to affordable, healthier foods — Particularly in low-income households, access to fresh, healthy, whole foods is limited, whereas highly processed foods are most affordable in the grocery stores. As a result, children aren’t getting the recommended daily nutrients found in fresh produce and low-fat protein sources.

What can we do to stop the epidemic and improve the lives of our children?

At Nicholson Clinic, we believe that in understanding the causes of childhood obesity, we can change the course for our children. Parents must lead the way, by making simple lifestyle changes for themselves and their children. By encouraging small, gradual changes in a child’s lifestyle, we can produce long-term, sustainable results in that child’s long-term health. Here are a few tips every parent can use to improve their child’s health.

  • Make sure your children get adequate sleep.
  • Follow recommendations on daily screen time. Children under two should get no screen time, while children between the ages of two and five should have no more than an hour of screen time each day. For kids six and older, set consistent limits on screen time and encourage regular breaks for physical activity. (For more details on screen time recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, click here.)
  • Make physical activity part of your daily routine, whether through team sports or exercising as a family each day.
  • Carefully monitor your child’s food intake to ensure they are getting the right amount of calories from healthy, whole food sources such as fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains and lean meats. Serve fruits and vegetables in place of sugary snacks. The American Heart Association makes these dietary recommendations for children.
  • Encourage your child to drink water and limit or eliminate your child’s access to sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and juice.

Ending the childhood obesity epidemic requires a collaborative effort by state and federal government, schools, childcare providers and parents. Ultimately however, a healthy lifestyle begins at home. As a parent, ensure you are setting a healthy example for your children by making good nutrition and regular exercise a priority for your family.

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