5 Tips to Prevent Childhood Obesity

September 1, 2011, President Barack Obama declared September as Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.

Childhood obesity is a national problem.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 17 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 19 years of age are obese.   Since 1980, obesity among children and adolescents has almost tripled.  The CDC defines obesity as a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same size age and sex.

Obese children can suffer from a list of physical, social and psychological problems.  Obese children are more likely develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems such as sleep apnea and asthma, joint problems and musculoskeletal problems.   In addition, they may suffer from discrimination and poor self-esteem.   It’s likely that unless they lose the weight, they will continue to suffer from all of these problems into adulthood.  At that point, all of these health problems become much more severe.

The root causes of childhood obesity are too many calories and not enough physical exercise.

Here are a few examples of things you can do at home to help your children eat well and stay healthy.

  • Clean out the kitchen:  Go through your kitchen pantry and refrigerator and clean out the food that has more calories than nutrition.   Processed foods such as potato chips, cookies, packaged desserts, are high in calories, sodium, sugar and carbohydrates.   Don’t forget to look in the refrigerator and freezer and clean out the ice cream and frozen dinners.
  • Go to the market:  Once you have cleaned the junk food out of the kitchen, go to the grocery store and shop for healthier alternatives.   Buy yogurt, cheese, fruit and nuts for snacks instead of boxed processed foods.    Taking them with you will allow them to have some say in what type of snacks are available to them and will make them more willing to try new things.
  • Eat at home:  Once you’ve restocked your kitchen, try to eat at home more rather than eating at fast food restaurants.   When you do eat out, look for healthier alternatives in what you and your children eat.  For example, order milk or water to drink rather than soft drinks.  Replace French fries with a side salad.
  • Pack snacks: If your children are busy after school and on weekends with sports and other activities, be sure to pack a small cooler of snacks or pack a lunch to take with you.  It will be cheaper than visiting a fast food restaurant, your kids will feel better and they’ll perform better.
  • Stop the pop: Soft drinks, fruit juices and high calorie energy drinks are full of sugar and calories.  Not only have they been linked to obesity, but their consumption has also been linked to rapid tooth decay.  Opt instead for milk and water.  Tap water has fluoride to protect teeth.  Milk is full of calcium and Vitamin D for healthy bones, skin and teeth.

Childhood obesity and the health problems that accompany it are easily preventable.   Making a few changes in how your children and your family eat will help keep them healthy and give them a great foundation for good health in the future.

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About the Author:

Phyllis Edson is a freelance writer who specializes in health, wellness and nutrition and issues.  She also offers a variety of online marketing and writing services. Visit her at www.phyllisedson.com or e-mail her at phyllis.edson@comcast.net.