Childhood and Adolescent obesity is on the rise. More and more children are falling victim to poor habits which can lead to a lifetime of health issues. Including but not limited to Asthma, hypertension, high cholesterol, blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Children facing obesity also can have issues with Sleep Apnea and liver disease. They also carry a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.
There are many reasons that a child can become obese. Being born heavy or being a chubby baby is not one of them. Many a large baby grows into a slim child. Valid reasons that a child or adolescent may become obese include:
* Lack of physical activity and Sedentary behavior- TV and Video games are rapidly overtaking children’s number one on the two do list. In the past several years as these options have become far more popular, there has been a decline in sports, outdoor activities and active games.
* Eating habits- Children are born grazers. They tend to eat little bits throughout the day. No matter if you enforce an eating schedule or allow grazing what matters most is the quality of the food children are exposed to. Today there are more sugary foods, highly processed foods, and carb loaded foods in the household. Meaning children are less likely to choose a healthy food over a sugary one.
* Environment- With the watching TV comes commercials. Seeing advertisements for sugary foods and sweets encourages children to want them.
* Genetics- Parents who are overweight or obese are more likely to have over weight or obese children as well. Even if they have decent eating habits, children inherit the genes that make it easier for them to become overweight.
* Sleeping habits- Being tired alters levels of appetite regulating hormones, you eat more when you are tired. Often times junk food and sugery snacks to keep you awake.
However there are many ways to combat the rising levels of childhood obesity in your own home. A few of which include:
* Set good examples. Young children learn by what their parents do. If you have shown them from the time they are small that eating junk is fine, then chances are they will do the same. Choose healthy foods and have only those on hands.
* Don’t use food as a reward. Find other ways to reward children for good behavior. A toy or trip out that doesn’t include fast food or candy is a nice alternative.
* Be supportive- Overweight kids are often teased their peers, Be sure that you create a comfortable home life that does not revolve around weight issues. As that can make a person turn to comfort eating. Keep family members from commenting on overweight children etc. Children know when there is something going on such as teasing even if its off handed. They are sensitive and this should always be remembered.
* Plan family outings that require exercise. Zoos, malls, bike rides, parks. Taking the dog for a walk every night after dinner is a fun way to spend time together while getting some exercise.
* Prepare all your meals, Don’t fall into the habit of fast food and easy to make boxed foods. They are often loaded with carbs and sugars that you don’t need. Instead plan and prepare meals yourself. Often this takes very little more time then a boxed meal. Include children in the planning and prepping of meals. They can pick out your nightly vegetable for example. Peel potato’s and veggies. Or older children can help you slice and cook.
* You should always be sure to have an array of healthy snacks on hand. Some examples include fruits and veggies, cheese, yogurt’s and frozen juice bars. Frozen yogurt and sherbet are alternatives to ice cream. Cookies and crackers should be low fat.
* Make gradual changes to eating habits- focus on one change at a time don’t expect a child who has eaten whatever they wanted to to suddenly decide to enjoy more veggies. but gradually they will stop asking for the sweets they love, especially if they are never brought into the house again.
Reward successful changes. When a child successfully looses some weight or meets a specific goal, reward it with a trip or special treat like a movie.
These are but a few ideas that can help encourage healthy eating habits in young children and help combat childhood obesity. While the best method of prevention is never allowing it in the house, sometimes this isn’t as easy as it seems. While having a sugary snack or treat every now and then, the bulk of your choices should be healthy and well rounded.