More than 12 million children and adolescents aged 2-19 years are obese. Childhood obesity can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
So, what can parents do to prevent it? Or what can you do to help a child who needs to lose weight?
If your child has been categorized as obese, it’s important to look at physical activity levels and find ways to increase the amount of exercise they’re getting on a regular basis. Biking, swimming and hiking are great group activities. Make sure to help your overweight child find an activity that he or she enjoys and doesn’t feel embarrassed doing. Cutting down on television and video game time can also help to motivate children to be more active.
A healthy diet is also very important, as is leading by example. Cutting down or cutting out desserts, candy, soda, fries and potato chips is a great start. Reducing butter and refined grains like white flour, pasta and rice is also helpful. Limit meals from fast food establishments and plan family meals so that everyone can be a part of eating healthy.
Other good tips are limiting snacks and not offering unhealthy food between meals. Do not use food as a reward. Telling a child that they can have dessert if they eat their vegetables sends the message that vegetables are less valuable than dessert. Offering smaller portions lets your child ask for more if they finish what they were served, rather than serving a large amount at the start.
A great resource for helping your child overcome obesity and live a healthier lifestyle is http://www.heartsmartkids.com. The organization provides decision support and implementation of guidelines on obesity, behavioral health and other common health issues.
The importance of continuing lifestyle changes well past the initial treatment period should be emphasized. Making healthy habits and keeping them up will benefit the whole family.