Over the last 30 years, childhood obesity has doubled in young children and tripled in teens. Approximately one out of every three children are overweight or obese in the United States today, and children in the African American and Hispanic community are experiencing even higher childhood obesity rates. The Lets Move! campaign founded by Michelle Obama cites many factors contributing to the obesity epidemic. An increase in portion size, processed foods, fast foods and snacking coupled with a decrease in home cooked meals and physical activity has wreaked havoc on our youths state of health. Another key factor is the amount of time children spend watching television, playing video games and using other electronics such as computers or cells phones. Research shows that the average 8- to 18-year-old now spends about 7.5 hours per day using electronics.
Risk factors for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, prediabetes, bone or joint problems, sleep apnea and poor self-esteem more commonly appear in obese children and teens. Experts are now keenly aware of the importance of building healthy and active lifestyle habits during childhood, as research shows that obese children are likely to become obese adults. Using the terms overweight or obese when it comes to children can be off-putting; however, it is important to remember that these are medical terms with very specific definitions. A first step in combating the childhood obesity epidemic in your own home is becoming informed about what it means to be underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese. Many websites now offer body mass index (BMI) calculators for children, which can serve as a general starting point. In addition, parents can also find recommendations for the required amount of physical activity and nutrition for all ages online.
Here are five tips for combating childhood obesity in your home…
Offer healthy snacks The average child consumes three snacks per day. Having plenty of healthy choices, such as baked tortilla chips with homemade guacamole, fruit, low-fat cheese and yogurt, will ensure that your child is getting purposeful snacks between meals.
Avoid sugary drinks Limit sugary drinks and promote children to drink more water. Avoid high fructose corn syrup and opt for 100% juices rather than soda.
Get moving Make it a habit to take a walk, have a dance off, play sports or take part in some form of physical activity as a family every day after dinner. Start off by dedicating 10-15 minutes a day to physical family activity.
Turn off electronics For younger children, write several physical activities on pieces of paper and place them in a jar (10 jumping jacks, 10 pushups, jogging in place, etc.), then ask children to pull an activity from the jar during each commercial. Also, limit the amount of time your family spends on electronics by using timers.
Get cooking Home cooked meals are generally healthier than fast food options. Plan your meals and get your children involved in the preparation process whenever it is possible. FoodNetwork.com has several free 20-minute meal recipes on their website which can be useful for busy parents.