Combating Childhood Obesity

by Caitlyn Stace

preschoolers with hands upChildhood obesity has reached epic proportions in the United States. How do we fight back?

"Obese children have a 70-80 percent chance of being overweight for their entire life. They face other health risks such as increased chance of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Additionally, there is an increased rate of certain types of cancer," says Dr. Tamara Sheffield, creator of the LiVe Program. "Childhood obesity can increase the severity of common childhood health problems such as asthma."

Fighting the Fat Monster

According to Dr. Sheffield, "The most common cause of obesity in children is a shift in family habits to those that are less healthy than they were in past decades. We have fewer opportunities to be active, and our portions of food have grown."

She encourages families to focus on these eight healthy habits:

  1. Eat a healthy breakfast every day
  2. Eat more fruits and vegetables instead of food loaded with calories
  3. Eliminate drinks with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup
  4. Limit screen time (TV, videos, computers) to no more than one to two hours for children, and none for toddlers under two-years-old
  5. Increase physical activity (kids should be running around most of the day, but at least should get an hour of vigorous activity each day)
  6. Eat meals together as a family
  7. Be positive about food. Food should be viewed as healthy fuel for our bodies instead of as a reward or punishment
  8. Don't criticize each other about weight. Your children learn about their self-image from you. If you're critical about your own weight, they'll focus on theirs as well. Choose foods and activities that showcase good health rather than focus on how they effect appearance.

Your Plan of Attack

A healthy child can be created with this two-pronged offensive: A realistic attitude toward food and an active lifestyle. It's never too early to encourage your child!

The battle-of-the-bulge begins in the womb
very pregnant belly1) Stay active and follow recommendations for weight gain
2) Eats lots of healthy carbohydrates, especially those brightly colored fruits and vegetables
3) Experiment with a variety of tastes (baby will taste them too!)

We recommend: Make your plate beautiful. Colorful foods contain important nutrients for you and your baby!

Top tips for healthier babies:
happy baby exploring1) Breastfeed, and don't offer juice or sugary drinks
2) Let your baby get enough sleep
3) Plan plenty of interactive play time with your baby

We recommend: A box! Fill a box with toys, little stuffed animals, safe kitchen tools. Show your baby how to take off the lid. Which is more fun -- playing "in and out," dumping toys or playing with the box?

Top tips for healthier toddlers:
happy mommy and baby1) Experiment with lots of vegetables and offer these first with meals
2) Limit sugary foods, desserts, and no sweetened drinks except for 6 oz. of juice per day (Note: 65-70% of toddlers consume dessert, ice cream or candy daily, and adults enable that activity. Toddlers do not get those foods by themselves!)
3) Play time, not TV time

We recommend: Set up a pillow and yarn obstacle course. Encourage your tyke to climb those tall pillow mountains and jump over yarn rivers.

Top tips for healthier preschoolers
toddlers on the go1) Limit TV time to 1 hour a day or less
2) No sweetened drinks
3) Run, run, run, run, run, and play some more

We recommend: Picnic time! Invite your child to help. Experiment with a new dip for the veggies such as plain yogurt, lime juice and a touch of your favorite spice.