Childhood obesity in the United States has become a major concern for teachers, parents, and the medical community, all with differing theories philosophies, and tips for prevention. Factors that contribute to childhood obesity include genetics, inactivity, technology, as well as the beliefs and attitudes of the parents.
Social circles in addition to peer pressure are additional factors in children being overweight and the epidemic of childhood obesity. It takes a village to fight back against the expanding waistlines of the youth of the nation. Intervention of the physicians, parents, and the entire educational system is an important addition to the needed support system. Nutrition education in addition to physical activity instruction will lead to the creation of a culture of informed children which in turn will lead to healthier weight and lifestyles.
Why is childhood obesity such a major concern?
Children, as they develop and grow, gain weight. The problem isn't weight gain, but it will present itself as a problem when a child packs on the extra pounds that are not needed for normal development and growth.
Extra weight gain over time will lead to obesity which will create serious medical conditions for young children and adolescents that will continue throughout life even in adulthood. Research of specific causes of childhood obesity can not only educate parents, but also can help motivate those doing the research to work on positive behavior changes to correct and prevent the growing childhood obesity problem.
Balance is important when it comes to helping children maintain healthy weights. Balance of what exactly? Balancing the calories children drink and eat with the calories burned through the normal growth process. Helping kids develop healthy eating habits and a healthy lifestyle is easier than one might think.
Start by offering nutritious, healthy snacks or meals to kids with an appropriate number of calories for their age group. Adults can teach healthy eating habits by changing favorite dishes to healthier options and by removing any temptations that are high in calories.
Make small changes that encourage healthy eating habits
- Provide easy access to fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain products.
- Offer low-fat or non-fat milk dairy products.
- Choose lean fish, meats, poultry, beans and lentils for protein.
- Serve the proper sized portions.
- Encourage kids to drink water over sugar-sweetened beverages.
- Use the following sparingly: sodium, sugar, and saturated fats.
Use calorie-rich temptations as rewards
Treats can be part of maintaining a healthy weight but only if the amount is in moderation. Reduce the amount of high-fat, salty or sugary snacks to aid in teaching the development of healthy eating habits. A few examples of easy, quick, low sugar, low fat and low-calorie treats include:
- 1 cup grapes
- 1 cup of blueberries
- 1 cup of carrots, broccoli, or bell peppers dipped in about 2 tbsp. hummus
Help children and teens understand the benefits and importance of being physically active
Teach children and teens that physical activity can be fun and has great health benefits that include:
- Strengthening of all the bones
- Decreases the blood pressure
- Reduces anxiety and stress
- Increases the individual's self-esteem
- Helps with weight management
Help children and teens learn to get and stay active
Children and teens should be encouraged to participate in a minimum of 60 minutes of a moderate intensity level of physical activity most days of the week, and if possible, every day. Adults and older kids can be a strong example! Start by adding some type of physical activity to the daily routine and encourage children to be involved.
Some examples include:
- Taking a walk
- Playing a game of tag
- Jumping rope
- Shooting hoops
- Dance class
Reaching for and maintaining an age appropriate body weight is an important goal
It’s best to focus on smaller, easy to reach but permanent changes when it comes to eating habits instead of quick, short-term changes that can be difficult to manage consistently. As a general rule, keep in mind the recommended appropriate weight relative to a child’s height also known as the Body Mass Index (BMI).
Factors predicting success are:
- Involving the parents in the child's dietary treatment program
- Strong, positive social support of the dietary intervention from those involved in the preparation of the food consumed
- Regular physical activity and social support
The healthiest way to lose and manage weight is gradually by developing new, healthy habits that will encourage a healthy lifestyle for years to come.
Orchard Hospital offers various resources to the communities of Gridley and Oroville, especially the walk-in medical clinic services, as well as other programs that the community can use. We encourage you to visit us.
Our mission is to provide our community with superior health care. We strive to ensure that your experience at Orchard Hospital is as pleasant and comfortable as possible. Our priority is to provide you with the care you need when you need it, with skill, compassion, and respect.