Childhood obesity continues to be a problem for many children and adolescents in the United States. Even though every parent wants a healthy and happy child, factors like socioeconomic status, household income, and lack of access to fresh, healthy food can affect our children’s health.
Let’s further explore childhood obesity and what parents can do to help prevent it:
What is childhood obesity?
Doctors use body mass index (BMI) to define obesity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers children whose BMI is at or above the 95th percentile or higher for height and weight for their age group to be obese. In the United States, about 18.5 percent of children ages 2 to 19 — more than 13 million children — are suffering from childhood obesity.
Unfortunately, obesity is more prevalent among Hispanic and black children. This may be due to socioeconomic status, family history, diet, or a combination of these factors.
What is the long-term impact of childhood obesity?
In the short term, obesity can cause low self-esteem and depression. Children who struggle with obesity may wrestle with feelings of shame or be the victims of bullying and discrimination from peers. These challenges are often tied with poor academic performance and even mental illness such as anxiety or depression from a young age.
Children who are obese are more likely to suffer from long-term health consequences, too. They’re more likely to have a number of health complications, including:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- chronic disease
What you can do to prevent childhood obesity at home
Preventing childhood obesity starts at home.
Some of the best ways you can prevent childhood obesity is to provide your child with healthy meals and snacks. Limit sugary, fried, and fast food, and avoid serving or buying sugary beverages like soda or juice for your child. Make it simple with a pantry and fridge stocked with pre-cut veggies, fruit, and other healthy snacks that are easily accessible to children. At mealtimes, serve water only and eat together as a family as often as you can.
In addition, try to provide plenty of fruits, vegetables and other healthy options. Avoid letting your child have too much screen time and stay active as a family by doing activities like biking and walking whenever you can.
Most importantly, model the lifestyle behavior you want to pass on to your children. If regular exercise, well-balanced meals, and healthy habits are a part of your life, your child is more likely to adopt those choices as well.
Talk to your doctor
Your child’s pediatrician is your best advocate to help you manage your child’s health. It’s important that your child go for regular check-ups so a doctor can measure their BMI and make sure they’re staying on a healthy track. If you are concerned about your child’s weight, talk to their doctor, who can help create a healthy plan for your child and family that works for everyone. They can also offer general healthy eating tips and recommend a nutritionist, if needed.