September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. The bad news? One in three children in the United States is overweight or obese. The good news? Childhood obesity can be prevented.
Problems Caused by Childhood Obesity
Parents, physicians and scientists are troubled by the trend of childhood obesity, which has grown during the last three decades. Obesity is usually defined as being more than 20 percent above ideal weight for a particular height and age.
Body Mass Index (BMI) is a number calculated from a child's weight and height. Try this BMI (Body Mass Index) calculator specifically for children and teens ages 2-19.
Obesity in children and youth may lead to the following health problems:
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Sleep apnea
- Joint problems
- Fatty liver disease, gallstones and heartburn
- Social discrimination and low self-esteem
Also, studies have shown that obese children and teens are more likely to become obese adults.
The Growing Problem of Childhood Obesity
Experts agree that childhood obesity is caused by eating too many calories and not getting enough physical activity. In a society that bombards children with commercials for sugar-laden cereals, high-calorie sports drinks and sedentary video game playing, it's no wonder children are paying the price.
One culprit is sugary drinks, which are the largest source of added sugar in the diets of U.S. children. Drinking lots of these high-sugar, nutrient-poor drinks has been associated with obesity.
One reason many kids aren't getting enough exercise has to do with television and media. It is estimated that children ages 8 to 18 spend an average of 7.5 hours a day using 'entertainment media' including TV, computers, video games, cell phones and movies. Too much TV is of particular concern since it takes away from physical activity, can increase snacking and expose children to commercials for unhealthy foods.
Parents Can Play a Role in Preventing Childhood Obesity
Here are just a few tips for helping manage your family's nutrition:
- Provide lots of vegetables, fruits and whole-grain foods (look for the words "100% whole grain" or "100% whole wheat" on the label)
- Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils and beans for protein
- Limit sugar-sweetened beverages and fruit juice and drink lots of water
- Remove temptations of high-fat, high-sugar or salty snacks
- Eat a healthy breakfast every day
- Cook more often at home
- Build a healthy meal by making half of your plate vegetables and fruits
- Eat smaller portions
- Know the number of daily calories needed by your children
- Eat together as a family most days of the week
- Discourage late-night eating
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children and teens be physically active for at least 60 minutes on most, if not all, days. Aerobic activity should make up most of that time.
Here are some tips for getting and staying active:
- Walk instead of drive when you can
- Take a family walk or bike ride after dinner
- Limit the amount of sedentary time watching TV or playing video games. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids under age 2 should not watch TV at all, and kids older than 2 be restricted to 1-2 hours a day of quality programming.
- Establish a regular schedule for physical activity
- Keep activities fun so children continue doing them
- Play with your children at least 30 minutes a day
- Set a positive example by leading an active lifestyle
Find a Pediatrician
About Pediatric Services
Doylestown Health is committed to providing family-centered children's services to Bucks and Montgomery County communities. The Carol and Louis Della Penna Pediatric Center offers expert inpatient care to all ages including infants, children and teens. Della Penna Pediatric Center Services extend beyond the hospital setting to include health and wellness education, nutrition services and other support services.
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