Childhood obesity has been on the rise over the course of the last twenty years. It’s a significant health concern, especially since it puts children at risk for various other health problems such as type 2 diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea, and heart disease.
September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and it’s the perfect time to find fun activities to promote your child’s health at home and at school.
Prevalence of Childhood Obesity in the U.S.
According to data from the CDC, obesity affects about 19.3% of children and adolescents in the U.S. That means about one in every five children is obese.
Obesity is determined a little differently for children than it is for adults since children are still growing. While a body mass index (BMI) over 30 is considered obese for adults, children whose BMI falls into the 95th percentile or higher for their age are classified as obese.
More about obesity statistics in the U.S. can be found here.
National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month
To raise awareness of childhood obesity in the U.S., September has been designated as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. The purpose of this occasion is to help U.S. citizens learn more about childhood obesity and how to prevent it. It’s a time to focus on healthy living through a nutrient-rich diet and physical exercise.
5 Ways to Help Children Maintain a Healthy Weight
So what can you do to help your children maintain a healthy lifestyle? This month, consider trying one or two of the following.
1. Add Some Color to Your Meals
A healthy diet is key to making sure your children get the nutrients they need. In general, you want a low-calorie diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, protein, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. A good way to do this is to pick foods by their natural color. By getting a variety of colors on your child’s plate, you can help them get the nutrition they need.
Another good guideline is to make half of each plate fruits and veggies with the other half consisting of protein or whole grains.
2. Limit Sugar
As you focus on nutrients, it’ll be important to limit sweets. That means cutting out foods with added sugars of any kind. Replacing sweet treats with fruit can help, as can encouraging your kids to drink water, milk, or 100% juice instead of drinks with added sweeteners.
Children under 2 should have no added sugars in their food or drinks, and older children are best served ifsugar-added foods are kept to under 10% of their diet.
3. Limit Screen Time
Aside from diet, physical exercise is important to your child’s health, not to mention their overall development. That frequently means limiting screen time. A survey conducted in 2012 showed that kids who spend too much time in front of screens are nearly 70% more likely to become obese. When coupled with lack of physical activity, the odds rose to over 150%.
In general, you’ll want to limit school-age children to two hours of screen time per day. Kids kindergarten-age or younger should be limited to one hour, and infants should have none.
Screen time limits should also end well before bedtime. Getting enough sleep is another factor in childhood obesity, so make sure your children get to bed on time each night.
4. Get Active as a Family
Children should get at least an hour of physical activity every day for proper growth and development. That can include anything from taking a walk to playing sports to simply running around outside with friends. Going out and doing something active together as a family is a great way to help your children get the exercise they need.
Some fun activities include:
- Walking the dog
- Walking or biking to school
- After-school activities
- Playing team sports
- A good old fashioned game of tag
- Water balloon fight
- Dance party!
- Jumping jacks contest during commercial breaks
Get as creative as you want with it! There’s no need to get too technical with it. The point is simply to get moving.
5. Get Involved at School
Finally, get involved with your child’s school. For instance, you might decide to become part of your school’s PTA and give input on nutrition or activities. Doing so allows your voice to be heard in behalf of your child’s health at school as well as at home.
Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle
By getting involved in your child’s health at home and at school, you’ll help them make healthy choices as they grow up. You can do your part in preventing childhood obesity.