Created: 16 February 2011 | Written by Dr. Wilson for Citrus County Chronicle
The 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) estimates 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2-19 years are not just overweight, but obese. Childhood obesity is associated with serious health problems that ordinarily occur much later in life including elevated cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, abnormal glucose tolerance, and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Obese children are more likely to suffer from asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, early onset of Type 2 diabetes, and excessive accumulation of fat in the liver (hepatic steatosis). Obese children and adolescents are likely to become obese as adults. In addition to these physical problems, overweight and obese children are more likely to be teased, bullied or ostracized in school and to suffer from low self-esteem.Genetics, environment, and behavior all contribute to childhood obesity. Obesity occurs when a child consumes more calories than his or her body needs to support normal growth and development, metabolism, and physical activity.
A combination of too many sweet and calorie-rich foods, poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle causes children to become overweight. Childhood obesity can be reversed when the family, pediatrician, and community work together to initiate good eating habits, change attitudes towards food, and encourage more physical activity.
You can start today with a few simple steps:
- Replace sugary and fat-laden snacks with a fruit bowl in plain sight.
- Supply cheese, whole grain bread, yogurt, and dried fruit as snacks when children feel hungry between meals.
- Do not keep fruit juices, fruit drinks, or sodas in your refrigerator. Encourage your children to drink water when they are thirsty.
- Limit television watching and internet use to no more than two hours per day.
- Aim for at least one hour of vigorous play or physical activity every day – preferably outdoors.
- Read labels when you are grocery shopping and avoid high-calorie foods and those that have a fat content of more than 20% of the total calories.
- If your children are eating pizza and chicken nuggets for lunch at school, pack a lunch box with healthier alternatives.
- Replace white rice, white bread, and white pasta with brown rice and whole grain products.
- Do not eat meals in front of the television. Encourage your family to eat together at the table.
- Serve smaller portions of meats, carbohydrates and desserts at mealtimes.
- Try to keep mealtimes on a regular schedule.
- Do not force a child to finish everything on the plate — if necessary, set food aside to be eaten later when the child is hungry again.
- Use healthier alternatives such as olive oil when you cook.
- Reduce sugar and salt; grill and steam instead of frying and boiling.
- Discourage snacking while watching television or movies.
- Avoid fast food restaurants as much as possible and try to prepare more meals at home.
- Reinforce good eating habits by giving praise, talking about the importance of good nutrition, and pointing out “good” foods and “bad” foods to your children.
Remember that your children follow your example. As your lifestyle becomes healthier, so will theirs.