For those who don’t know, September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Since 1980, childhood obesity rates have more than doubled and now 1 in 3 children in the United States are overweight or obese according to healthfinder.gov. Childhood obesity puts kids at risk for health problems that were once seen only in adults, like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. While there is no single or simple solution, National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month provides an opportunity for learning about ways to prevent and address this serious health concern.
Childhood obesity is a major public health problem. Children who have obesity are more likely to have obesity as adults. This can lead to lifelong physical and mental health problems, including diabetes and increased risk of certain cancers. Children who have obesity also face more bullying and stigma. Influenced by many factors, obesity in children can be caused by spending too much time spent in sedentary activities, lack of sleep, a lack of adequate physical activity and easy access to inexpensive, high calorie snacks and beverages. Fortunately, whether you’re a parent or not, we can all take part in the effort to encourage more children to be physically active and eat a healthy diet. Here are some ways to help:
- Make sure children get adequate sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to lack of energy, less desire for physical activity, and poor nutrition choices. Following a set bedtime routine can eliminate lack of sleep. Talk to your child’s pediatrician to learn how much sleep your child should get every night for their age.
- Today’s children are spending an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices. Multiple studies have found a positive relationship between excessive media use and obesity in children. Children who reduce television time can also reduce their body mass index (BMI) so monitoring screen time plays an essential role in helping kids build healthier lives. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours a day of screen time, however building a plan to reduce screen time that works best for your specific family needs is most important to help prevent obesity.
- Help children get the recommended amount of physical activity each day by encouraging them to participate in activities that are age-appropriate and enjoyable. There are a variety of age appropriate aerobic, muscle and bone-strengthening activities that kids can do. Take advantage of afterschool programs, community resources, and more to provide ample opportunity to keep your kids active, moving, and healthy.
- Substitute higher nutrient, lower calorie foods such as fruit and vegetables in place of foods with higher-calorie ingredients, such as added sugars and solid fats. Ensure access to water as a no-calorie alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages. Children like choices so offering them a variety of healthier options such as fruit and vegetables at meals and as snacks is a great way to empower them to eat better. Click here for a quick list of fun and healthy snacks for kids to try today!
One of the most important things to remember as a parent and member of your community is to lead by example. If children constantly see you in front of your phone or the TV, eating unhealthy foods, and staying inactive then they’re more likely to follow suit. Parents are often the most important role models for children. When you choose to eat right, limit screen time and be physically active, your child will be more likely to make those choices, too. Plus, being active and preparing healthy meals together are great ways to spend quality time with your family. If you’d like to learn more about eating healthier, losing weight or need help planning meals to fit your lifestyle, please contact Prajakta Apte, RDN of Right Nutrition Works today. When you take control of your health and wellness, you encourage your children to do the same and promote longer, healthier lives for you and your family!
Prajakta Apte, RDN is a registered Dietitian and Nutritionist in Surprise, Arizona who works with individuals who want to be more conscious about their health but who may struggle with knowing what’s accurate and want to have a complete makeover by learning how to transform their understanding of nutrition and health. By doing so, they can be more confident about their nutritional health and be known as experts in health and nutrition among their tribe.
Prajakta Apte, RDN
Right Nutrition Works
18789 N Reems Rd, Suite 260-I
Surprise AZ 85374
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