Archive for the ‘Childhood Obesity’ Category

What Are Your Children Eating?

There are alarming statistics concerning the number of overweight kids. The fast food industry and TV food ads tend to get blamed for the over-sizing of America.

English: Child eating a veggie burger at a fas...

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According to a group of physicians, voluntary guidelines for reducing ads on TV have not been effective. They say it’s time to get tougher with the food industry about not advertising junk food to young children. The assumption here is that young children often can’t tell the difference between ads and programming. If fast food ads were banned, they say, this could decrease obesity and overweight by 17 percent.

Looking at the bigger picture though, we can see it is not only the food industry’s problem. It is one for all families. Studies show that one in five children (ages 2 to 5) is overweight or obese before entering kindergarten. These children aren’t even in school yet. It appears the school lunch program is not the problem at this early age.

That places much of the responsibility of providing healthy foods on parents and caregivers. It is  their job to decide what foods are served, when they are served, and where they are served. They are the ones in charge. For families with small children, they determine what their children eat. Therefore, they need to know what foods children need and in what portion.

With all the media talk and nutrition information available, it would appear that everyone should know what to eat to stay healthy and maintain weight. But people are still confused about what constitutes valid information, or they choose to ignore it.

Children need to be exposed to fresh, less-processed foods at an early age. Their appetite and palate should adapt to healthy real foods before they are exposed to hamburger, chicken nuggets, soda pop, sweets, and other empty calorie foods. Children need to be educated in knowing and believing real food is the natural way to eat, rather than highly processed packaged foods.

Here are suggestions for promoting good food habits in and out of the home:

  • Don’t use food as a reward or punishment. Proper food and nutrition is much too important to be a bargaining tool in the lives of children.
  • Plan meals that are rich in plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Clear the kitchen of sugars, processed foods, soda pop and any energy drinks. Water, the best choice of beverages, can be flavored with lemon or other fruits and/or juices.
  • Take children grocery shopping and talk about healthy and less-than-healthy foods.
  • Try to buy organically grown fruits and vegetables when possible.
  • Look for the words “Whole Grain” as the first ingredient on breads and pastas.
  • Cook with your children. Show them cooking is a part of normal life, is fun and creative, and does not need to be a burden. Involve them in cooking with real food and help them know where their food comes from.
  • Sit down together as a family to eat.
  • Be a good role model and eat healthy. Yes, that means eating your fruit and veggies at every meal.

Healthy kids don’t just happen. Parents have the responsibility of setting the stage for good food habits and helping their children understand the importance of healthy food for healthy bodies.

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Three Simple Things Parents Can Do to Help Their Children Lose Weight

More children than ever before are overweight or obese. Overweight children are prone to being teased and ridiculed at school. They’re also susceptible to many more illnesses and health conditions. Helping a child lose weight is one of the best things a parent or adult can do. It helps the child live a longer and hopefully a happier life.

There are many things a parent can do to help a child lose weight. In this article we take a look at three very simple but powerful strategies.

#1 Get rid of the junk

A child, any child, will inevitably choose junk food over a healthy snack. If junk food is in the house, you can bet your child will find it. To help your children lose weight, get rid of the junk food. Get rid of the soda. Throw out the sugary drinks. Toss the cookies, cakes and ice cream. Get rid of the candy. Throw away the sugary cereals,  chips,  and pizza rolls. Throw away the junk foods and don’t buy it any more.

Replace the junk food with healthy snack options. Seriously, if it’s in the house and children are hungry they’ll eat it. Good snack options include cheese, fruit, whole grain crackers and pretzels. Popcorn, low fat and low sodium, is a good snack option too.

Fill your refrigerator with easy to use vegetables and dip. Low-fat dip or hummus works best. Buy your children low-sugar oatmeal and low-sugar cereals and give them fresh fruit to put on it. You’re not going to be able to completely wipe out their sweet tooth. However, they can satisfy it with fruit instead of sugar and white flour.

#2 Get active

Children’s bodies are meant to be active and in constant motion. If your child isn’t involved in any after school or extracurricular sports, sign them up. If they’re not interested in sports, then get outside with them and get active. Ride your bikes together. Go for walks or hikes together. Make sure your child does something active every day. Sign them up for a break dancing or martial arts class. Support them to join a sports league or take lessons in an individual sport like tennis.

The more active your child is, the more calories they’ll burn. It may be difficult at first. Overweight children may experience physical discomfort. Be patient. Help them gradually increase the intensity of their activity. Many children who are overweight are uncomfortable with their bodies. They fear ridicule and would rather stay inside their home. Help them get over any embarrassment they have.

#3 Be a good role model

If your child is not allowed to eat junk, then you’re not either. If your child is supposed to be active, then you need to be too. Children learn by the actions and behavior of the adults around them. Yes, it may be difficult at first. If you’ve been living an unhealthy lifestyle there will be some discomfort. Change isn’t always easy. But it does get easier. Support your child to live a better, healthier life, by living a better and healthier life yourself.

Childhood obesity is at an all-time high. It’s up to parents and the adults to help children overcome weight problems. Teach children about healthy eating when they’re young so they can grow into strong and healthy adults.

Preventing Childhood Obesity – Seven Simple Tips and Strategies

The number of obese children has tripled over the past thirty years. The reasons are twofold: poor diet and an inactive lifestyle. The good news is that childhood obesity can be reversed and prevented. Here are seven simple tips and strategies to help children stay healthy and active.

#1 Limit sugary drinks and snacks. Make them a treat rather than the norm. Aim for one sugary drink or snack each week. Take care to not make sugary snacks a reward. They can be part of a celebration or a special tradition. However, when food becomes a reward it sends the wrong message to a child.

#2 Limit the time a child is allowed to look at or sit in front of a screen. That includes televisions, computers, handheld games and iPods. Electronic devices have become part of society. However, they don’t need to dominate a child’s day. If you don’t want to struggle with arguments, consider getting a device that limits the time your child can watch television.

Move the computer to the center of the home, and keep all electronic devices in a central location. Make children sign their electronics in and out.

#3 Find an activity the child loves. There are so many fun things a child can do that gets their body moving and their blood pumping. Take a look at what’s offered in your community. Explore teams, classes and lessons. Take a look at some ” out of the box” ideas like ice skating, skate boarding, rock climbing, dancing, and Thai kickboxing or jiu jitsu.

#4 Provide your child with a variety of fruit and vegetable options. Ideally your child will eat five fruits and vegetables each day. Support them to try new foods. It may take some time for their taste buds to appreciate some vegetables. Be patient.

#5 Be a good role model. Your child will emulate your behavior. Eat a healthy diet and live an active lifestyle. Honor your body and your health and your child will too.

#6 Eat as a family. When families sit down together for mealtime, children tend to develop a different appreciation for food. Also, get active together. Take family hikes. Play family games outdoors. Go for bike rides together. Play football or go skiing or sledding.

#7 Eat in more often. Restaurant food is generally high in fat, salt and sugar. Eating at home gives you and your family more control over what you put into your body. You know what is in the food you’ve prepared. Eating at home is generally healthier than eating out.

Living a healthy lifestyle isn’t difficult. However, it does take attention and planning. Plan activates for your family. Pay attention to your child’s activity level and screen time. Plan meals and help your child learn to make healthy choices for life.

Common Childhood Obesity Treatments and Recommendations

If your child or someone you know has been diagnosed as obese, there is good news. Childhood obesity can be reversed. A diagnosis from your doctor will likely result in several treatment options and recommendations. Here’s what you can expect.

Obese Children Under 7 Years

If your child is under seven years old, then your doctor may recommend helping your child maintain their weight. The key will be to help them stay the same weight as they grow in height. In a few years their height and weight will balance out. They will have reached a healthy BMI or body mass index. The reason behind this is that dieting can be difficult if not a bit traumatic for young children who may not understand that their body weight is an issue.

It’s important to know that maintaining weight is still quite challenging for an obese child. Dietary and lifestyle changes will have to be made.

Obese Children Over 7 Years

If your child is over seven years a doctor will recommend a weight loss program. The recommendation will range from losing one pound a week to one pound a month depending on circumstances.

It’s important to note that losing weight does not mean going on a diet. It means changing eating habits and lifestyle. The difference is significant. A diet is a short-term solution. Children often return to their old eating habits and lifestyle afterwards. Dieting as a child sets them up for a life of yo-yo dieting. This is hard on a body and on a person’s self-confidence.

Other Recommendations

There are many common sense strategies to use. Here are some of the lifestyle changes your physician will recommend regardless of the child’s age:

* No more sugary drinks
* Replace sugary and high white flour snacks with fruits, vegetables and protein
* Eat as a family
* Monitor serving size
* Eat home-cooked meals rather than fast food or restaurant meals
* Limit time with electronics to two hours or less each day
* Help your child find activities they enjoy. For example, ice skating/hockey, swimming, dancing, martial arts or team sports. Emphasize fun and activity rather than exercise.

Much of the burden to reverse childhood obesity is placed on the parents. This is because parents buy the food, make the meals, and give permission to turn on the television. As a parent the responsibility rests with you to be a good role model and to help your child learn to make healthy choices. With patience and determination, childhood obesity can be reversed.

Three Common Mistakes Parents Make When Feeding Their Children

There are two primary causes for childhood obesity. They are a sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits. Parents play a strong role in a child’s eating habits and lifestyle. Parents set the rules. They provide the food. They model healthy, or unhealthy, behaviors.

To prevent childhood obesity, several steps need to be taken and they start with feeding children. Avoid these common mistakes and you can help your child prevent or reverse childhood obesity.

#1 Too many sweets – Many parents let their children eat sweets for snacks. They provide their children with sweets for breakfast, such as toaster pops.  And they serve dessert with every lunch and dinner. Dessert and sweets should be a special occasion, not a regular occurrence. Take a look through your cupboards and find the sweets. Toss them, freeze them for a special occasion, or store them.

Bring sweets out on holidays, birthdays, and the occasional dessert. When children become accustomed to eating sweets all of the time, they begin to depend on them for energy. It creates a cycle of blood sugar spikes and plummets. They crave more sweets. The result is an increase in body fat, less energy and eventually insulin resistance. The end result of insulin resistance is diabetes and obesity.

#2 Not enough vegetables – Children need the nutrients vegetables provide. However, most children and adults get far fewer in their daily diet than their body needs. Offer fruits and vegetables at every meal. In fact, offer them at snack time too. And consider offering at least two vegetables at mealtime.

Steam some green beans and throw together a quick salad. Serve vegetables with dips like hummus and low-fat dressings. Ask your child to at least try the vegetables. Eventually, they’ll learn to like them.

#3 Too many starchy carbohydrates – White flour has the same effect on your child’s blood sugar as sugar does. The body burns it quickly. It’s absorbed into the blood stream causing blood sugar levels to spike and then it’s gone. This leaves a person feeling hungry and craving more energy in the form of starchy carbs and sugar. Buy whole grain bread, pretzels and crackers. Offer your children more whole grain cereals and healthy snack foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables.

Parents of all children regardless of age, health and weight make these mistakes. The good news is they’re easy to fix. A little advanced planning and smart grocery shopping will do the trick. Plan your meals. Make sure the cupboards are filled with healthy snacks. And know that a bag of carrots is cheaper than a bag of potato chips.

To your child’s good health!

Lee Jackson, CFCS
Parenting and Family Specialist

Seven Things You Can Do Right Now to Help Your Child Lose Weight

If your child is overweight they’re not alone. Thousands of children across the country are dealing with the same issues. Childhood obesity is a common problem. The good news is that the problem can be reversed. And parents can help. Here are seven things you can do right now to help your child lose weight.

#1 Make a commitment to eat better yourself. Children look to the adults in their life to be role models. If you’re living an unhealthy lifestyle, you’re showing your child that taking care of their body and their health isn’t important. Right now, today, make a commitment to take better care of yourself. Make healthier choices.

#2 Clean out your cupboards and refrigerator. Chances are your home (like many others) is stocked with food that just isn’t good for you. Chips, cookies and white flour baked goods are all foods that need to be tossed in the garbage. Get rid of the soda and sugary drinks too. If it has high fructose corn syrup or sugar on the beverage label, throw it out.

#3 Replace the junk food with healthy options. Replace pretzels with whole grain pretzels. Replace the chips with whole grain crackers. Buy some cheese and apples for a nice snack. Grab carrots, celery and hummus for a tasty treat. Buy yogurt, nuts, fruit and whole grain cereals too. Children enjoy snacking. Make sure they have healthy snacks to choose from.

#4 Start serving two vegetables at each meal. Vegetables fill you up. They’re also low in calories and extremely good for you. Your child will resist, especially if their sweet tooth is very strong. Be patient. Ask them to try the vegetables. Their sweet tooth will be tamed after time and they will learn to enjoy vegetables.

#5 Make them breakfast in the morning. Make sure breakfast is healthy. There are many options, such as whole grain waffles with a smear of natural peanut butter; yogurt with granola and berries; scrambled eggs and toast. Or try a smoothie with fresh fruit, yogurt and a little protein powder. Your child will start the day with a healthy breakfast that will last for hours.

#6 Get outside with them right now. Get their body moving. Take a walk. Ride your bike. Head to the nearest pool and go for a swim. Do something that gets them off the couch and away from their electronic device of choice.

#7 Sign them up for a sport or activity. There are two causes for weight gain: poor food choices and inactivity. With guidance, food choices will change over time. However, you can help them get active right now. Find out what your child likes to do or is interested in and help them get started. Do they like to:

* Rock climb?
* Ride their bike?
* Dance?
* Ice skate or play hockey?
* Box or learn martial arts?
* Swim?
* Run?

There are lots of fun things a child can do. Activity doesn’t have to feel like exercise.

Help your child start losing weight right now. Clean out those cupboards. Plan and shop for healthy meals and snack options. Help them start moving their body and burning calories today. You’re the best role model they have; be a good one.

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The Most Common Causes for Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is a terrible problem. Children as young as five are so overweight that they cannot be children. They cannot play and enjoy their life the way children are meant to. Childhood obesity causes a number of health issues too. Children who are overweight tend to be sick more often too. Understanding childhood obesity can help parents make decisions and prevent obesity with their children.

What Is Childhood Obesity?

Childhood obesity is a health condition. When obesity is diagnosed, it’s generally based on a child’s BMI or body mass index. The Center for Disease Control defines obesity as a BMI greater than the 95th percentile. When you visit your pediatrician your child’s height and weight are ranked on a scale. The scale is then compared to the average child across the country and healthy levels.

What Causes Childhood Obesity?

There are actually many causes of childhood obesity. In some cases there are hereditary elements involved. A child may inherit a thyroid problem or another hormonal problem. If parents and other family members are obese, then children are more likely to be obese as well. However, there are other environmental factors that may have more significant bearing on a child?s health.

Most commonly childhood obesity is caused by poor eating habits and inactivity. Many obese children live on a regular diet of starchy carbs and high fat foods. A fast food diet is a prime cause of obesity amongst children. A diet that is high in sugar, white flour and fat will quickly cause children to have imbalanced blood sugar. They’ll have blood sugar highs and lows which lead to cravings. Cravings lead to more unfortunate food choices and the cycle can quickly get out of hand.

The problem is only further enhanced when parents are unable to or do not provide healthy options. When cupboards are stocked with junk food, children almost always choose the junk over a healthy snack.

Couple the issues of an unhealthy diet with inactivity and you have the makings for childhood obesity. More and more children are left home to fend for themselves after school. When they’re home they sit on the couch and watch television. They play video or computer games. They’re not active outside. They’re not moving their body. They’re not playing. To cut a long story short – children are consuming way more calories than they burn. And the calories they do consume are not providing them with the nutrients they need.

Overweight and obese children face a life of ridicule by their peers. They face health challenges most adults cannot fathom. They also face a shorter lifespan. It’s a very sad prognosis.

The good news is that childhood obesity can be reversed. Children are incredibly adaptable. They can learn new habits. But they cannot do it alone. They need support. They need adults who can help them make responsible and healthy decisions.

How to Teach Your Children to Make Smarter Food Choices

One of the leading causes of childhood obesity is poor food choices. When faced with a decision between vegetables and a cookie, most children are going to choose the cookie. However, with a few strategic lessons and a good role model you can teach your children to put their health first. Here’s how.

* Help them learn to like healthy foods. Children often resist many foods including vegetables and whole grains because they’re being forced upon them. Instead of preparing a plate of lima beans and telling your child to eat it all, give them a choice. Prepare a variety of vegetables, side dishes and whole grain options. Encourage your child to try new things.

A child generally has to try something several times before they begin to like it. Be patient. Reward them with verbal praise when they try new healthy foods. If they say they don’t like it, nod your head and praise them for trying it. Let them know that taste buds change and they might like it better next time.

* Make sugar a treat. Many children have become so accustomed to sweet foods that anything that doesn’t have sugar just tastes bad. If your child eats a lot of sweets, start reducing the amount they have available to them. Limit it initially to one treat a day and then eventually consider reducing it to one treat a week.

However, make sure that food doesn’t become a reward for behavior. And don’t forget to check things like cereal which can be high in sugar. Once your child’s sweet tooth has been tamed, they’ll enjoy eating a variety of other healthy foods.

* Involve them in meal planning and preparation. A child that helps you prepare a meal is going to be much more excited about eating it. Invite your children to help you choose meals. Consider putting them in charge of the meal choice for one evening each week. You can provide them with a list of choices. You can also browse cookbooks together. Also consider, if they’re old enough, letting them come to you with a few options.

Also ask your children to participate in shopping and meal preparation. When you’re in the produce area, ask your children to find and pick out the various vegetables and fruits you need for the meal. They’ll learn about their veggies and they’ll be more excited to try them.

* Be a good role model. You cannot expect your child to make healthy choices if you do not. Take good care of your health. Exercise and eat well. Let your children see that taking care of themselves and making good food choices is important.

* Embrace other cultures. Often one of the great ways to help your children appreciate food is to help them learn about what other cultures eat. You can embrace one country each month and make a meal. Have a culture night. Combine it with family game night and make trying new foods something to look forward too.

* Teach your children the “why” behind the food choices. If your children don’t know why they should make healthy choices, they won’t care. Explain about how the body works and what it needs to function properly. Talk to them about how some foods provide lasting energy while other foods burn out quickly and make us feel tired and cranky. Adjust the conversation depending on your child’s age.

Finally, enjoy food. It’s easy to be too rigid about food. This can cause a backlash. It can motivate children to hide food and to feel ashamed. Make sure children know that it’s about moderation, not restriction and deprivation. Good food and healthy choices can go hand in hand.

How to Get Your Child Active and Moving their Body

There are two primary causes for childhood obesity. The first is a poor diet. The second cause for childhood obesity is a sedentary life. While the American lifestyle poses some challenges, overcoming childhood obesity or preventing it is a simple matter. The first step may be to help children become more active.

When you move your body you burn calories. You also learn the joy of being active. Today children are often found sitting in front of their computer. They’re found using their iPod or playing their video games. Or they’re just sitting in front of the television. This is unhealthy and a sure way to gain weight. The key is to get your child active. Here’s how:

#1 Help your child find an activity they enjoy. Exercise doesn’t need to be “exercise.” In fact, you?ll be hard pressed to convince a child to join you at the gym for a spin class or to run around the track. However, football, dancing, martial arts and tennis are fun activities your child can enjoy. The key is to find an activity your child is interested in. Here are a few options to consider:

* Dancing – break dancing/hip hop, ballet, tap, jazz
* Ice skating/Hockey
* Football
* Tumbling/gymnastics
* Rock climbing
* Skateboarding
* Martial Arts/Muay Thai/Jiu jitsu/karate
* Soccer
* Basketball
* Tennis
* Bicycling/Mountain Biking/BMX/Cyclocross
* Swimming

The list really could go on and on. There’s no end to the number of fun activities a child can learn and participate in. Check out your local YMCA for options and leagues.

#2 Support your child through the discomfort. It’s tough to try a new sport or activity. It’s even more difficult if you’re not used to moving your body. It can be embarrassing if you’re overweight. It can be embarrassing if a little exercise makes you feel out of breath. However, a child is never going to move beyond the embarrassment and discomfort without a little push.

Parents and adults need to support a child to be motivated and confident, and to work through the challenges and struggles. They will come out as better people in the end. And imagine how great they’re going to feel when they persevere and learn a new activity. They’ll have fun and lose weight in the process.

#3 Get active with your child. Sometimes the only way to get a child to be more active and to support them is to exercise with them. Ride bikes together. Go for walks and on hikes together. Take a martial arts class together. It’s a great opportunity to be a role model for your child. It can also be a bonding moment. Children learn by the actions of the adults around them. When you embrace movement and activity in your life, your child can too.

In addition to the tips and strategies outlined here, consider putting a limit on electronic devices. Limit the time a child can watch television, surf the internet, play video games or use their iPod. Experts recommend no more than two hours a day. That’s still a lot of time. However, your child won’t miss the electronics if they’re out having fun and getting active.

Complications of Childhood Obesity – Startling Consequences That Affect Your Kids

Childhood obesity is an epidemic. This generation, for the first time in history, has a shorter predicted lifespan than their parents. Unfortunately, for many obese and overweight children, a shorter lifespan isn’t the only problem they’re facing. They also have to deal with serious mental and physical complications.

Emotional and Mental Consequences

When most people think about obesity and children they acknowledge the health complications that result. What they don’t think about is the emotional toll obesity takes. Children who are obese:

* Are teased, bullied and ridiculed at school. Being obese is extremely hard on a child. Children can be relentless with teasing and bullying. When a child is overweight, bullies have another weapon against the child. It can cause a vicious circle. The child is overweight so they get teased. The teasing makes them feel bad. They turn to food for comfort. They gain more weight…

* Are more likely to be depressed and suffer from low self-esteem. The depression and obesity connection is complicated. Hormones and blood sugar levels in an obese child tend to be abnormal. This can change brain chemistry and cause depression. Additionally, there is the emotional response to being obese and feeling bad about themselves. They can feel sad, depressed and lack confidence.

* Can have additional learning difficulties. Imbalanced blood sugar, hormones and energy levels can cause learning and focus difficulties. Lack of confidence in themselves only worsens the problem.

* May act out in an effort to gain attention. Behavior problems with obese children are common. It’s caused by stress, social anxiety, and a desire to be accepted.

Physical Consequences

If the emotional and mental consequences aren’t enough to convince you that childhood obesity has to end, here are some startling physical and health consequences.

* Early puberty and menstruation – Imbalanced hormone levels often lead to early puberty in obese children. This can also lead to behavior problems and more weight gain. Not to mention additional social anxiety.

* Asthma and breathing problems – The body and its internal organs can only do so much. When a child is severely overweight and inactive, the lungs struggle.

* Sleep disorders – Sleep apnea is common among obese children. When this occurs the brain is deprived of oxygen during the night. Children wake feeling exhausted and poorly. It’s not a good way to live at any age.

* Type 2 Diabetes – It’s almost a given that an obese child will develop type 2 diabetes at some point. This means a life of struggle, pain and discomfort. Not to mention a shorter lifespan.

* Chronic pain – Joints, muscles and tendons struggle to support a body’s weight. Children can spend their days feeling pretty miserable from head to toe. As adults they may require joint replacements and medication for chronic pain.

This is just the beginning. Obese children also suffer from:

* Eating disorders
* Psychological disorders
* Organ and liver failure
* Skin infections
* High blood pressure
* Metabolic syndrome
* High blood pressure

As adults, if the obesity isn’t reversed, they might deal with cancer, stroke, diabetes and dementia.

If all of this sounds shocking, there is good news. Childhood obesity isn’t a life sentence. Children can lose weight and learn to live a healthy lifestyle. They can turn their health, and their future around.