5 Tips to Overcome Obesity and Raise Fit, Healthy Kids
The numbers on childhood obesity in America are sobering. It has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. In 2012, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. While these numbers have stabilized in recent years, childhood obesity is still a major concern.
Virtua registered dietitian Kristin Andolaro, MS, RD, CHES, LDN, explains that numbers alone don’t tell the whole story.
Take the Long View
Kids need to grow on their own trajectory; if you child is above average weight, don’t stress. Your child is growing and needs nutrition. It’s more important to look at lifelong trends rather than a child’s individual body mass index (BMI) at any given moment. If a child has a higher-than-average BMI that stays consistent, it means that may be your child’s normal weight for his or her build.
Don’t Label or Restrict
Don’t label children as “obese.” Once they’re labeled, they can be made to feel less smart, capable, or worthy in other ways. Parents who hear that their children are obese tend to restrict food intake and this can set them up for future bad eating habits. Kids can become preoccupied with food and binge eat or “sneak” food.
Raise Competent Eaters
Work to create a regular schedule that includes family meals and snacks. These should all be at set times. As a parent, you should determine what, when, and where your children eat, but let them decide how much to eat. This helps them learn to regulate their appetite, and sets up healthier eating habits for the future.
The Sugar Exception
The exception to this rule should be sweets and sweetened beverages. A key factor affecting childhood obesity is the overwhelming availability of processed foods that are high in sugar and chemicals. Just one sugary drink a day adds 100 extra calories to their daily diet. Over a single year, that can add up to 10 extra pounds. Occasional treats are fine, but they shouldn’t be a regular part of your child’s diet.
It’s easy to get hung up on numbers and definitions, but the fight against childhood obesity isn’t fought in calories and pounds. Instead, help your kids develop healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.
For help, call 1-888-VIRTUA-3 to schedule an appointment with a pediatric registered dietitian.
Updated June 6, 2016