By Marcela De Vivo
Childhood obesity isn’t just a problem in the United States – it’s an epidemic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity has nearly tripled since 1970, with nearly 20-percent of children between the ages of six and eleven considered obese.
The obesity rate has also risen for adolescents. Approximately 18-percent of adolescents between 12 and 19 are obese, and many more are overweight and on the verge of obesity.
Luckily, there are some things you can do as a parent to help your child lose weight and get healthy.
It’s important that your child loses weight and begins living a healthy life now to avoid serious potential health problems later on in life.
Causes of Childhood Obesity
While many parents think that childhood obesity is related to genetic traits, there really aren’t any genetic reasons that young child should be obese according to the Mayo Clinic.
Genetic disorders can cause problems with weight gain and retention – particularly thyroid disorders – though these are fairly rare in most young children.
The most common causes of childhood obesity are poor diet and lack of exercise.
Simply put, children that are obese are likely consuming too many calories and not burning enough of them through regular physical activity, resulting in weight gain.
Change Your Child’s Eating Habits
If your child is obese, you need to take the initiative when it comes to changing your child’s eating habits.
After all, you probably prepare most of their meals – or at the very least, pay for them.
A child’s diet should be rich in lean protein sources like skinless chicken, turkey, fish and beans. Protein is essential for growing children, but high-fat options like ground beef and pork can lead to weight gain. If you’re going to make burgers at home, opt for at least 98% lean ground beef, your child won’t taste the difference.
Children also need to eat plenty of vegetables. Many children don’t want to eat their vegetables, but as a parent, it’s your job to make sure they do. Try serving raw broccoli, carrots or celery with fat-free, low-calorie dressing for dipping. If your child just won’t eat their vegetables, try to sneak them into foods that they like to get them used to their taste.
Lasagna anyone? Meaty, cheesy goodness can do wonders concealing broccoli, asparagus, bell peppers, mushrooms etc. Switch to whole wheat or grain pasta too. Low-fat dairy products help build strong bones and provide calcium, both of which are essential for growing children. Instead of high-fat products like chocolate milk, choose low-fat versions. Low-fat dairy options like fat-free yogurt also make excellent alternatives to high-fat desserts like ice cream.
Getting your kids involved with the food that they’re eating can also help them to try new things. When preparing meals for your child, ask them to pick out vegetables or to assemble a salad for the whole family with a group of already prepared ingredients.
Many kids are willing to eat foods that they wouldn’t otherwise if they have a hand in their preparation. This also sets your kids up for healthy eating habits when they’re adults and living on their own. It’s also important that you limit how many sweet treats your child gets.
Soda, cookies, cakes and candy should be looked at as special treat, not something that should be a part of or follow every meal. You should also replace high-fat versions of desserts with lower calorie ones, like frozen yogurt for ice cream. Sitting down and eating meals with your child can also help develop healthy eating habits. Turn the television off and have a conversation. Eating in front of the television or while doing schoolwork can result in overeating because your brain is too busy focusing on the television to tell you that you’re full.
Exercise is an important part of fighting childhood obesity. Exercise is also important for adults, and it can help to prevent weight gain and other health problems later in life. Setting your child on the path to regular exercise will benefit them throughout their life. It’s important to remember that you don’t need to put your child on an exercise plan that they hate, but rather to get them to do physical activities that they enjoy. Find activities that your child likes and get them involved. For many kids, intramural sports are a lot more enjoyable than riding an exercise bicycle or jogging.
Lead by Example
As a parent, it’s your job to show your child how to live a healthy life. That means that you need to find time to exercise too. Consider exercising with your child. Toss a football, shoot a basketball or even go bowling or ice skating. Any physical activity will help your child lose weight and develop a healthy active lifestyle.
– Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer in the Los Angeles area. Her writing focuses on beauty, health, and well being centered on Yoga and natural remedies from international pharmacies.