Curbing childhood obesity continues to be a battle in the United States, and even more so in Arkansas. According to the State of Childhood Obesity, more than 16 percent of children ages 10-17 are obese, putting Arkansas in the top 20 (at 15 out of 51) for this age group among all states and the District of Columbia.
When a child is well above the normal or healthy weight for his or her age and height, the child is obese. Childhood obesity isn’t just “baby fat”. It is a complex health issue that can lead to other chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and breathing problems, such as asthma and sleep apnea. According to the CDC, childhood obesity is largely influenced by lifestyle, genetics, and sometimes even communities. Adults – like parents, guardians, and teachers – play a vital role in helping children maintain a healthy weight so that they can lead a healthy life into adulthood.
In light of National Childhood Obesity Month, we’ve jotted down a few tips from health professionals and health organizations to help your children reach or maintain a healthy weight.
- Develop healthy eating habits – and we don’t mean “dieting”.
This one can be challenging, but small changes every day can lead to success.
- Give them plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain products like strawberries, tomatoes, and whole-grain cereals
- Limit sugary drinks, like sports drinks and juice pouches, and instead, encourage your family to drink more water
- Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils and beans for protein.
Need some inspiration? Food Network, Eating Well, Taste of Home, and a whole range of websites have suggestions for healthy meals your kids might crave.
- Limit calorie packed foods – we’re looking at you, cookies, candy, and potato chips!
Cutting down (or out!) high-fat and high-sugar snacks can help children develop healthy eating habits and prevent childhood obesity. Try replacing snacks like potato chips and fruit snacks with fruits and vegetables. Only allow your children to eat these foods rarely so that they’re truly a treat!
- Get them moving instead of sitting
While quiet time is beneficial, health experts recommend limiting the time children watch television, play video games, or surf the web to no more than two hours per day. Instead, encourage children to participate in physical activities. Play and physical activity can be fun, plus it has a ton health benefits such as strengthening bones, reducing stress and anxiety, increasing self-esteem, and maintaining a healthy weight
- Ensure adequate sleep
Getting enough sleep is important for kids (and adults, too). According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, too little sleep is associated with obesity because inadequate sleep makes us eat more and be less physically active. By getting into a sleep schedule that leaves your kiddos fully restored, they’ll often be less hangry and want to do more! For tips on how many hours your child should be getting, check out the National Sleep Foundation’s guide here.