By: Alisa Mae Fernandez
What is it?
Childhood obesity is very prevalent in our society today. According to the CDC, the number of children who are obese has tripled compared to the 1970s1. It can ultimately lead to many health problems, both physical and mental. These health problems can occur during childhood and follow up into adulthood. Obesity is defined as the excess of body fat and can be caused by a variety of factors, such as excess caloric intake, genetics, environment, and lifestyle2.
What can parents do to help their children?
It is important for the parents to be involved in their children’s health, as well as be a support system for them. The two most important things to emphasize is a healthy diet and encourage physical activity. Parents can do a variety of things to help their children eat healthier diets and lifestyles. Some examples include3:
Incorporating more food groups into the kids, i.e. fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Cooking dinner instead of picking up fast food and making home-cooked meals healthier.
- Replacing junk food for healthier snacks, such as fruit instead of chips.
- Encourage the kids to go play outside or join a sports team.
Should children’s diets be restricted?
Itis not recommended to restrict children’s diets. They need to have the proper amounts of nutrients in order to grow. Putting kids on diets that emphasize “low” nutrients, such as a low carbohydrate diet, may lead to deficiencies4. It is recommended that lifestyle changes or interventions should be started during childhood2. Changes should also be small and gradual over time because it is more likely to be sustained5.
One good way to introduce vegetables into kids’ diets is to incorporate them into their favorite foods. Kids love macaroni and cheese, so why not make a healthier by adding some vegetables to it?
- Childhood Obesity Facts. Centers for Disease Control. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/facts.htm
- Dehghan M, Akhtar-Danesh N, Merchant AT. Childhood obesity, prevalence, and prevention. Nutrition Journal. 2005 (4):24 DOI:10.1186/1475-2891-4-24.
- Preventing Childhood Obesity: Tips for Parents and Caretakers. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyKids/ChildhoodObesity/Preventing-Childhood-Obesity-Tips-for-Parents-and-Caretakers_UCM_456118_Article.jsp#.WPJmDmU03zI
- Ward, EM. Is a low-carb diet safe for kids? Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. http://www.eatright.org/resource/health/weight-loss/fad-diets/is-a-low-carb-diet-safe-for-kids
- Overweight in children. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyKids/ChildhoodObesity/Overweight-in-Children_UCM_304054_Article.jsp