More kids struggle with weight issues than ever before. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the percentage of children with obesity in the U.S. has more than tripled since the 1970s. That means that about one in five school-aged children are considered obese.
It can be a difficult issue for both the child and parents to deal with, but it is an extremely important health issue that we need to focus on.
Children who are obese are more at risk of being obese adults and more susceptible to conditions like diabetes, heart disease and cancer as adults. However, it can also have negative consequences during childhood. Childhood obesity can trigger sleep apnea and cause various developmental problems since a child’s body and organs are still growing and developing.
If your child is overweight, Carilion Children's pediatricians recommend working with your pediatrician to find a goal weight, but don’t think of it as a diet. Focus on making lifestyle changes for your child and possibly even yourself and your family.
A few small changes at a time can have positive results. Below are just a few easy things to try:
1. Start the day off right
Make sure your child eats a healthy breakfast that will fill him up, so he won’t be starving later on and overeat. Morning can be a busy time for everyone, so don’t make it too complicated. A simple breakfast of whole-wheat toast with low-sugar peanut butter can be a great option on busy mornings. If your kids love cereal, go for an option that is high in fiber and low in sugar.
2. Say no to sugar-sweetened drinks
Get rid of any soda or sugar-sweetened drinks. This includes fruit juices too, which are often high in sugar and very low in fiber. You don’t want your child to drink his calories. Stick with water and low-fat milk.
3. Fruit, veggies, whole grains, repeat
Clear your kitchen of junk food and replace it with fruits, veggies and other healthy snacks. If the bad stuff is not around they can’t eat it!
Take your kids shopping with you and let them pick out their favorite produce. You can also get kids involved in the cooking and maybe even try something new each week. Spaghetti squash and zoodles (zucchini noodles) are a great way to replace traditional pasta and pretty fun to make, too. Often, kids are more likely to eat things that they help pick out and prepare.
4. Watch portion sizes
Think “child-size” portions. Start with a small serving and only add more if your child is still hungry. Other things to keep in mind:
- Don’t use large, adult-size plates
- Sit down to meals together as a family at a set time
- Skip the clean plate club
5. Get outside and move
Kids need at least 60 minutes of exercise every day. For younger children, simply taking them outside might be all it will take, but for older kids, a more structured activity might be the best option. The most important thing is to make it fun. Check out this article for fun ways to get out and get active as a family.
6. Be a role model
Your kids are watching you more than you think, so make sure that you are making your own healthy choices when it comes to food and exercise.
If you are making changes and your child is still not losing any weight, talk to your pediatrician for more tips and possibly a more structured program.
This article was reviewed by a Carilion Children's pediatrician.