How many fast-food restaurants have you driven through at 6 p.m. on a work night, with a hungry child screaming at you? Many of us have, and as parents we likely feel guilty. Childhood obesity is rapidly on the rise in this country. A recent study published in the Wall Street Journal sites the obesity epidemic as global: 2.1 billion people, or about 29 percent of the world’s population, were either overweight or obese in 2013. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines obesity as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water or a combination of those factors. They state that being overweight or obese is a result of “caloric imbalance,” which means the amount of calories consumed is larger than calories burned.
It is important for your child to maintain a healthy weight, because obesity can increase their risk factors for developing:
As a parent who struggles with this condition with my son, I want to help parents understand how to safely and effectively help children lose weight. I partnered with a number of experts at CHLA to help provide you with some simple dietary changes you can make and easy ways to keep your child active.
Make small changes!
When trying to improve your child’s eating habits, slow and steady wins the race! Megan Lipton, MA, CRP, director of Kids N Fitness© at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, recommends starting slowly with small changes, like the ones listed here:
- Dilute juice with water.
- Add more vegetables to family meals.
- Switch from three sodas a day to two sodas to diet soda to water, etc.
- Reducing or eliminate sweetened beverages, including juice. Drink water instead.
- Make sure your family is getting a diet high in fiber. Whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and will aid in helping your child feel full, longer.
- Make sure the child is getting enough sleep.
- Eat together as a family whenever possible.
- Be a good role model. Let your child see you eating and enjoying healthy food.
One of the best ways to encourage your child to be more active is by setting a good example. Ask your child if he wants to join a sports team or class, such as basketball, swimming or dance. Many schools and community centers offer sports and performing arts classes for children.
If your child feels uncomfortable participating in activities such as sports, help him find physical activities that are fun and not competitive, including dancing to music, playing tag, jumping rope or riding a bike. Be active as a family. Assign active chores such as making the bed, sweeping the floor, raking leaves or vacuuming. Do it together. Why not plan active outings such as a walk through a local park, too?
Children spend a lot of time sitting down watching television, playing video games and using the computer. The following tips might help cut back on some of this inactive time:
- Limit screen time to no more than two hours per day.
- Help your child find fun things to do, such as acting out favorite books or stories, or doing a family art project.
- Encourage your child to get up and move during TV commercials and discourage snacking when sitting in front of a screen.
Childhood obesity is a condition that we can fight if armed with the proper tools. There is no greater advocate for your child than you! Don’t forget to make small, consistent changes, lead by example and, most important, have fun!
For more of Danielle’s tips to help your child lose weight and additional resources, visit WeTreatKidsBetter.org.