An increasing number of kids in the United States are struggling with obesity. Estimates suggest that as many as one quarter of American children are obese.
While obesity may be somewhat easy to recognize it can be a very difficult condition to treat. Obesity is generally defined as occurring when a child's weight is at least 10 percent or higher than what is recommended by medical professionals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for example, provides detailed information on calculating body mass index (BMI) for kids and adults.
Some of the health risks associated with obesity include high blood pressure, diabetes, difficulty sleeping and breathing, and a heightened risk of heart disease.
Children suffering from obesity may also be more likely to experience social and emotional turmoil including anxiety and depression.
If you are interested in keeping your kids active and trying to reduce their risk of obesity, here are 12 suggestions to promote more activity, healthier eating, and an overall reduced risk of obesity.
- Be Aware of the Types of foods your Child is Eating. This may mean preparing more meals with your child so that you know the ingredients going into the foods you are eating.
- Get Active - Together. Families that play together are more likely to keep up the activity. Make daily physical activity a part of your family's lifestyle - just like brushing teeth or bathing.
- Hydrate. Drinking plenty of water has been shown to control appetite and help limit eating from habit rather than genuine hunger.
- Stock up on Healthy Options. It is very important to have a variety of healthy choices around the house for meals and snacks. There are many options - including fresh and dried fruit, nuts, vegetables, low fat dairy (cheeses, yogurt), whole grain breads, and much more.
- Talk about Portions. Many people do not know the basics of portion size. Often times it is less about what you eat and more about the amount. Teach your family about healthy portions when preparing and serving meals.
- Keep Snacking Healthy. It can be very difficult to eliminate snacking, even when advised to do so by medical professionals and others. Have healthy snack options around so that if and when snacking happens - there are good choices to turn to.
- Engage Children in Family Meal Planning and Preparation. Involve your kids in planning for family meals and cooking. Kids are often more likely to try new vegetables and other foods if they have a part in cooking (and even growing) them.
- Don't Reward with High Fat High Sugar Treats. Rewarding kids with candy and other junk food for good behavior is tempting since so many of us love sugary treats, but it is not a good habit to start. Try rewarding your children instead with some family fun time like a bike ride, time at the playground, or another age appropriate option that does not involve unhealthy foods and beverages.
- Limit Time Spent on Electronics (TV, Video Games, Computers, etc.) Inactivity is at the heart of the childhood obesity epidemic and much of the time kids spend sitting involves some type of electronic activity, whether it is TV, computer gaming, or something else. Try putting some healthy limits on the amount of time kids spend doing these sorts of sedentary activities so that they are freed up to be more active.
- Prioritize Activity. Make physical activity part of the daily routine rather than a rare sidebar. Remember that little activity bursts over the course of the day tend to add up. Try incorporating morning and afternoon activities that everyone in your family can enjoy.
- Find Physical Activities That You Like to Do. There are so many options for physical activity - whether you enjoy walking, swimming, running, playing ball, jumping rope, hiking, biking, or something else. If you find activities that you and your kids like, you are much more likely to keep doing them.
- Model Healthy Behavior. Remember that your kids are watching you for guidance on how to live their lives. While you can provide them with information about healthy eating and exercise, nothing is more powerful than the day to day role modeling that you do for them as an adult.
If you need help with your own activity, nutrition, and weight, seek out support from friends, family and groups like Weight Watchers. The positive changes you make in your own life may have dramatic positive effects on your children, too. Before starting a new exercise routine, you may want to consult a sports medicine doctor for tips about physical fitness, exercise and sports injury prevention. Read more information about childhood obesity, including prevention tips.