Childhood Obesity

Prevention and treatment options.

Childhood obesity rates remain high in the United States of America. Obesity is defined as an accumulation of body fat to the extent of which it may have a negative impact on health and increase the risk for chronic diseases. The varying causes of childhood obesity include a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, genetics, and socioeconomic status. Two main treatments for obesity involve changes in exercise and diet.

An exercise plan for a child should be fun and match his personality. It is not wise to force a child into the same fitness regimen an adult would follow. If your child is not competitive, then don't force him to participate in competitive sports. Instead, find other active programs he can do outside of organized sports. Children should daily engage in leisure play that requires movement for at least one hour or more. Taking your child to the park, playing catch, shooting hoops, going for a walk, etc., all provide economical ways to encourage fitness. Also, limit television, computer, and tablet time to only one hour per day. This will not only encourage more healthy activity in general, but also increase creativity during playtime.

One important thing to remember is that the best guidance is through example. Children are great observers, and they can spot a hypocrite. "Do as I say, not as I do" is no way to inspire a child to be active and eat healthy foods. Make small lifestyle changes with your children. Regular park trips or walks for exercise and daily eating five servings of fruit and vegetables present simple ways to get started.

Limit sodas and sugary, salty, or processed treats to speci fic times. First, educate your children about the downfalls of eating and drinking too much sugar. Talk about tooth and tummy aches and gaining excessive body fat. Then, move on to limiting intake to particular times like after practice or Saturdays at lunch. If you do away with soda and sugar altogether, chances are your children will be unhappy. This compromise keeps their consumption special and creates realistic boundaries.

Plan and cook healthy meals and snacks together as a family. Children love hands-on activities. If they help prepare a nutritious meal, it is more likely they will eat it. Depending on the age of your children, the level of help they can offer will vary. Start by getting them to contribute to your shopping list and excursions, as well as having them set the table and mix ingredients. There are many different ways to involve kids of all ages in the process of making a healthy meal. And spending time together as a family is priceless. Studies have shown that families who eat meals together are much closer than those who don't.

Always include healthy fats in each meal and snack. Fat is not what makes us gain weight; sugar and processed foods are what pack on the pounds. Incorporating healthy fats from nuts, seeds, nut butters, avocados, hummus, and healthy oils will keep your child feeling full for a longer period of time. This reduces food cravings for processed snacks that are rich in sodium and sugar. Have raw vegetables with guacamole or hummus as snack; make a healthy trail mix with nuts, cereal, and dried fruit; or make homemade nutrition bars with almond butter.