September is National Childhood Obesity Month
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has designated this month as National Childhood Obesity Month NOT because anyone is saying your child doesn’t fit some standard of beauty, but because obesity is a serious health concern. All parents want their children to be healthy and to have a good life.
Sadly, children with obesity may be bullied and teased more than their normal weight peers, according to the CDC. They are more likely to feel depressed and isolated and have lower self-esteem. In addition to these psychological concerns, children with obesity are at increased risk for:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Sleep apnea
- Several types of cancer
- Kidney failure
- Fatty liver
- Bone and joint problems.
Luckily, there are things you can do to help your child avoid these problems. Some people think they – or their children – are destined to suffer from these problems because of their genes. But many people can avoid these by making some changes in their lifestyle – how they eat and how active they are!
How to Help: Encourage Your Child to Eat Healthy Foods
Make good food choices yourself. When your child sees you make good choices, it makes them more likely to do the same. And it doesn’t have to cost more to eat a healthy diet! Cutting back on buying processed foods, sugary drinks, and pre-packaged snacks can save you money at the grocery store. Try to make these foods occasional treats instead of having them around all the time. Look for ways to make your favorite dishes healthier. To help your child develop healthy habits at an early age, here are a few quick tips:
- Provide nutritious, lower-calorie foods such as fruits and vegetables and whole grain products at meals and snacks in place of foods high in added sugars and saturated fats.
- Offer water instead of sugary drinks.
- Choose lean meat, poultry, fish, lentils and beans for protein.
- Buy non-fat or low-fat milk or dairy foods.
- Serve reasonable portions. If you are not sure what a reasonable portion might be, ask your doctor to send you to see a dietitian.
How to Help: Encourage Your Child to Get Enough Daily Activity
First of all, it helps when you become a role model for your child and you get enough activity yourself. Look for parks, trails and community centers where you and your child can have fun together being active. Make it fun! It can be playing tag, jumping rope, playing soccer, swimming, dancing, etc.
If getting outside isn’t a good option, a nearby library has exercise DVDs, or you can search for YouTube videos. There’s almost any kind of exercise you might want available fairly easily. Many malls have times for walking before they open but any large store during business hours can provide a place to walk. Exercise helps strengthen bones, reduces stress, decreases blood pressure, increases self-esteem and helps with weight management.
Visit the ChooseMyPlate.gov website to look up nutritional information of food, plan meals and find healthy recipes. The CDC.gov website has physical activity guidelines by age, as well as for pregnant or postpartum women. It also has games you can play with your children about healthy eating. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute shows how portion sizes have changed over the years. You can test your food label knowledge – or just improve it – there, too. Food labels have lots of information for you. They are great resources for information you can use to make good choices
For healthy eating, you can find recipes for kids like this veggie pita recipe by exploring Kidshealth.org. And if you want some more help, check out this Sesame Street meal planner, shopping list, and recipe guide that can help you and your child get healthier together. For more information, see all of the articles and recipes on our nutrition tips page!