10 Childhood Obesity Prevention Tips Every Parent Should Know

10 Childhood Obesity Prevention Tips Every Parent Should Know

Childhood obesity may be on the rise, but there are so many ways to prevent it.

By Judy Koutsky

With the numbers of overweight and obese Americans growing at an alarming rate, it’s a good idea to evaluate your own children to see if they’re at risk. Dr. Gregory Dodell, MD, an endocrinologist in private practice in New York City and an attending physician at Mount Sinai Roosevelt, says the risk factors for obesity in children are predominantly the same as those for adults -- a sedentary lifestyle and an unbalanced diet.

“A kid who spends most of his time playing video games, watching TV, or sitting in front of the computer is not running around outside being active,” says Dodell. Add to that the fact that most kids are eating junk food while sedentary, and it’s not surprising so many kids are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Here, tips to keep your child from becoming obese.

1. Get your kids involved in the meal process. Take your kids grocery shopping with you, says Dodell, and have them help you pick out ingredients for a recipe and then help prepare dinner. Even young kids can help with measuring and mixing. Have a picky eater? Getting kids involved in the cooking process is the first step to getting them to eat healthier dishes.

2. Eat as a family several times a week. Cut out highly processed premade meals -- often chock full of sugar, salt, and fat -- by skipping fast food and instead coming together as a family at mealtimes. Sitting down together, talking, eating, and communicating does more for your family than you probably realize.

3. Do not give your kids sugar-sweetened beverages. Sodas and fruit juices are full of calories and sugar. Instead, if your kids are craving something sweet, give them whole fruits, which have natural sugars. “Artificial sweeteners should also be avoided, as they, too, have been implicated in the obesity epidemic and increase cravings for sweet foods and beverages,” says Dr. Yasmine Subhi Ali, MD, president of Nashville Preventive Cardiology and assistant clinical professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

4. Encourage your kids to find a team sport that they enjoy. Exercise is key to creating and maintaining a healthy weight, so Dodell suggests finding a team sport. When exercise is fun – they play with their friends and strategize about how to win the game -- kids will view it not as a chore or something that must be done but as something they look forward to.

5. If your child isn’t into team sports, find something else to keep him active. Some kids are just not into team sports, and that’s OK. But it’s important to find something else they can enjoy that will also keep them moving. Cycling, playing Frisbee, running around the backyard -- all are good options, according to Ali.

More from P&G everyday: 5 Ways to Get Your Family Moving

6. Limit screen time. Think it’s a coincidence that the percentage of children with obesity has grown substantially as technology has become a larger part of our lives? Ali suggests no more than one hour of TV a day. And remember, you’re a role model, so limit your own TV time, too.


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7. Encourage your kids to read food labels. One of the most important ways to really understand what you’re putting in your body is to read food labels. Teaching this skill to your children is important to get them in the habit to check for hidden sugar and large quantities of saturated fat, says Dodell. Another good rule of thumb – teach kids that if they can’t pronounce the ingredients, they shouldn’t eat it, says Ali.

8. Eat one new fruit or vegetable a month, preferably something in season. The best way to get kids to have a healthy relationship with food is to get them to try a variety of fruits and vegetables, so they start developing a taste for them. Dodell suggests introducing new foods each month; have your kids pick out a new one at the farmer’s market or grocery store.

9. Take a cooking class with your kids. What better way to learn about nutrition and healthy eating than to learn from the experts as you eat? Plus, spending time with the kids will be a fun experience.

10. Plan an active excursion each weekend. Hike, bike, run, ski … no matter what the season, there’s always something you can do. Take turns picking the activity -- not only will you be staying healthy, but you’ll be creating great memories.

What are some ways you get your kids to stay active and eat healthy?

Judy Koutsky is the former Editorial Director of KIWI magazine, a green parenting publication. She was also Executive Editor of Parenting.com, AOL Parent and BabyTalk.com. Follow her on Twitter @JudyKoutsky.

Image ©iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

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