202018Sep
Childhood Obesity: A Growing Problem

Childhood Obesity: A Growing Problem

When our parents and grandparents were growing up, it was unusual to see an obese child. These days, it is a very different story.

Many American children of all demographics are now carrying extra weight. Here are the current obesity trends and how you can combat childhood obesity in your own family.

Childhood Obesity Statistics

Childhood obesity rates by age:

  • 2 to 5 years old – 13.9%
  • 6 to 11 years old – 18.4%
  • 12 to 19 years old – 20.6%

Obesity trends over time:

  • There are three times as many obese children and teens now as there were in the 1970s.
  • 14% of children and adolescents were obese in 1999, compared to 18.5% in 2015 and 2016.

Despite recent efforts to improve childhood obesity rates, they are not on the decline.

How You Can Fight Childhood Obesity

Though childhood obesity is a relatively new problem, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a solution. There are many small steps you can take to help your child maintain a healthy weight.

Breastfeed

The World Health Organization suggests breastfeeding your baby exclusively for the first six months of life to reduce their risk of being overweight as a young child. While breastfeeding, pay attention to your baby’s signs that they’re full, like turning their head away.

Portion Food Out Correctly

Even adult food portions are out of control these days, so you need to pay special attention that you aren’t accidentally overfeeding your child. Each age group has its own dietary guidelines to follow.

For a more in-depth explanation of childhood nutrition, including portion sizes and healthy recipes, visit the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Information Center or ChooseMyPlate.gov.

Set a Good Example

Children tend to mimic parents’ eating and exercise habits more than they follow verbal advice. If you struggle with diet and exercise, try making changes to your own routine along with your child. You can offer each other support as you get used to new foods and activities. This ultimately helps your child take a more active role in their own health.

Purchase Healthy Foods

As their guardian, you have the final say over what your child does or does not eat at home. If you only stock the fridge and pantry with healthier options, your child won’t be able to indulge in sweet or salty treats on a daily basis.

That being said, you don’t want to breed resentment by forbidding your child from ever eating junk food. Consider allowing treats for special occasions or spacing desserts out across the week.

Turn Off Screens When Eating

It’s all too easy for kids and teens to keep their eyes trained on a screen while at the kitchen table. These distractions may cause them to eat more quickly and drown out the signals their brains and bodies are sending to stop eating.

Make a conscious effort to turn off all screens during meal time. This includes you, too – no Facebook, work emails or texting at the table.

Encourage Exercise

Children should exercise for at least 60 minutes every day. When physical activity is combined with a healthy diet, it’s much easier for your child to expend calories and maintain or lose weight.

If your child is put off by the thought of exercise, encourage them to work out in a fun way. Examples include:

  • Playing tag
  • Walking to the park or library
  • Jumping rope
  • Biking
  • Going on a family hike
  • Enrolling in school sports
  • Dancing
  • Swimming

Get Medical Guidance to Combat Childhood Obesity at St. Hope Foundation in Texas

If you are struggling to manage your child’s weight without medical guidance, you may benefit from a visit with a pediatrician. At St. Hope Foundation, our pediatric doctors and nutritional counselors can help your family craft a plan for diet, exercise and weight loss so your child can develop healthier habits.

Contact us at 713.778.1300 today to schedule your appointment.

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Rodney Goodie is founder and chief executive officer of St. Hope Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to medical care, pharmacy, clinical research and dental care.

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