Preventing Childhood Obesity: Tips for Parents and Caretakers

February 8th, 2017 by Live Well Omaha Kids

February is Heart Health Month. Shannon Hilaire, Communications Director for Nebraska’s American Heart Association talks to Live Well Omaha Kids about the importance of staying active and eating well to keep your heart and body healthy.

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Today, about one in three American children and teens are overweight or obese, nearly triple the rate in 1963. Among children today, obesity is causing broad range of health problems that previously weren’t seen until adulthood. These include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol levels.

There are also psychological effects: Obese children are more prone to low self-esteem, negative body image and depression. And excess weight at young ages has been linked to higher and earlier death rates in adulthood.

How can we fight it?

Balance is key in helping your child maintain a healthy weight. Balance the calories your child eats and drinks with the calories used through physical activity and normal growth.

Offer your kids nutritious meals and snacks with an appropriate number of calories. You can help them develop healthy eating habits by making favorite dishes healthier and by reducing calorie-rich temptations.

  1. Encourage healthy eating habits. Small changes can lead to a recipe for success!
    • Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole-grain products.
    • Include low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products.
    • Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils and beans for protein.
    • Serve reasonably-sized portions.
    • Encourage your family to drink lots of water.
    • Limit sugar-sweetened beverages, sugar, sodium and saturated fat.
  1. Make favorite dishes healthier. Some of your favorite recipes can be healthier with a few changes. You can also try some new heart-healthy dishes that might just become favorites, too!
  1. Remove calorie-rich temptations. Treats are OK in moderation, but limiting high-fat and high-sugar or salty snacks can also help your children develop healthy eating habits. Here are examples of easy-to-prepare, low-fat and low-sugar treats that are 100 calories or less:
    • A medium-size apple
    • A medium-size banana
    • 1 cup blueberries
    • 1 cup grapes
    • 1 cup carrots, broccoli, or bell peppers with 2 tbsp. hummus
  2. Help your kids understand the benefits of being physically active. Teach them that physical activity has great health benefits like:
    • Strengthening bone
    • Decreasing blood pressure
    • Reducing stress and anxiety
    • Increasing self-esteem
    • Helping with weight management
  3. Help kids stay active.
    Children and teens should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week, and every day if possible. You can set a great example! Start adding physical activity to your own daily routine and encourage your child to join you. Some examples of moderate-intensity physical activity include:

    • Brisk walking
    • Playing tag
    • Jumping rope
    • Playing soccer
    • Swimming
    • Dancing

Reduce sedentary time. Although quiet time for reading and homework is fine, limit “screen time” (TV, video games, Internet) to no more than two hours a day. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend TV for kids age 2 or younger. Encourage your children to find fun activities to do with family members or on their own that simply involve more activity.

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