Childhood obesity has many contributing factors, but there are ways that parents and caregivers can help at home to make sure kids are taught good habits and can make informed choices when it comes to what they’re eating.
According to the CDC, about 1 in 5 American children has obesity. Compared to children with healthy weight, children who are overweight or have obesity are at a higher risk for asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Children with obesity are also more likely to experience bullying, social isolation, depression, and lower self-esteem. While there is no simple solution, there are many ways to help children reach a healthy weight.
Eat the Rainbow
When it comes to eating healthy, have you heard people refer to it as “eating the rainbow?” Simply put, this means eating fruits and vegetables of different colors every day. Focusing on eating a variety of colors will help children get a variety of fruits and vegetables and increase their intake of the nutrients they offer to benefit their overall health.
Stay Physically Active
Children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. If this seems like a lot, trying thinking of it in chunks of times, instead of all at once. For example, walking or riding a bike to school, time spent at recess and PE, playing on a sports team, playing games outside with friends after school, walking the dog, an evening dance party, morning stretches or evening yoga, all count! Physically active youth have stronger muscles and better cardiovascular fitness, lower body fat and stronger bones.
Watch the Sugar Intake
Children age 2 and older should keep sugars to less than 10% of their daily calories. Good ways to do this are to avoid sugary drinks like juice and soda, pay attention to the amount of sugar in snacks like granola bars or protein bars, eat the rainbow mentioned above, and have a dessert as a treat, not a nightly habit. Too many added sugars can lead to health problems such as weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Reduce Screen Time
Too much screen time can result in health consequences associated with poor sleep, weight gain, lower grades in school and poor mental health. Even though it may be difficult to reduce screen time if your child is still learning remotely in some capacity, you can still create a family media plan by keeping mealtime tech-free, charging devices at night outside of the bedroom, and turning off screens an hour before bedtime.
Get Good Sleep
Did you know that children 6 to 12 years old need 9 to 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night and youth 13 to 18 years old need 8 to 10 hours? Inadequate sleep is associated with obesity in part because not enough sleep can make us eat more and cause us to be lethargic and less physically active.
Eating healthy, staying physically active, and less screen time can all help children sleep better and aid in preventing type 2 diabetes, injuries, poor mental health, problems with attention and behavior, and childhood obesity.