According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) one out of every five children have obesity and there are many more who are overweight. This is a concern as children who have obesity are at a higher risk for other chronic conditions. September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. This awareness campaign brings attention to this growing problem, and helps people understand the causes and solutions to address the issue. There are many factors that contribute to childhood obesity, but there are ways that caregivers can help children achieve good health and a healthy weight.
Children should eat a variety of colorful foods daily and make fruits and vegetables a priority. When children eat a healthy diet, they get the nutrients they need for normal growth and a healthy weight. When feeding children, be sure to use the following guidance:
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables – focus on whole fruit and vary your vegetables
- Make half your grains whole grain
- Vary your protein routine – include fish, nuts, beans and peas in the diet
- Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy
According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Regular physical activity promotes health and a healthy weight. Caregivers should encourage active play that includes a variety of activities. Here are some suggestions to get your children moving.
- Walk the dog
- Dance around the living room
- Try morning stretches
- Play team sports
- Do activities with friends
- Take a walk after dinner
- Be active a s a family
- Be a good role model
Re-think Your Drink
Choose better beverages. Avoid giving children sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda, sweet tea, punch, and flavored milk. Instead offer water, plain low-fat milk and 100% juice. Children under two years of age should have no added sugar in their diet, and children over age 2 should have less than 10% of their daily calories from sugar. Most people eat and drink too much sugar which can lead to health problems like excessive weight gain and obesity.
Limit screen time when possible. Too much screen time is related to poor sleep and weight gain. Reducing screen time frees up time for other play activities that can be done as a family. The American academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following:
- No screen time for children until 18-24 months
- Children two through five years of age are allowed an hour or less per day
- Older children and parents should discuss, negotiate limits, and establish boundaries around screen time
Good sleep is critical for good health. Adequate sleep is required to prevent obesity and other chronic diseases. Inadequate sleep is associated with obesity because a lack of sleep can make children eat more and move less. Here are the daily sleep guidelines recommended by the National Sleep Foundation:
- Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
- Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
- Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
- Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours
- School age children (6-13): 9-11 hours
- Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours
Caregivers should be good role models for children by adopting healthy habits that will last a lifetime!