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Preventing Childhood Obesity

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, making it a good time to consider how parents and caregivers can help instill healthy habits in children, prevent childhood obesity, and decrease the risk of related health problems.

In the United States, 18.5% of children and young adults between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese. Childhood obesity increases the risk of serious health problems during childhood that were once considered primarily adult health issues, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, joint problems, asthma, and sleep apnea.

The health issues caused by childhood obesity tend to follow children into adulthood. Obese children are also more likely to become obese adults, increasing their risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers during adulthood.

Although childhood obesity is a serious health issue, parents, caregivers, and their children have many options. Changes in diet, exercise, and lifestyle can make a major difference in a child’s weight, health, and self-esteem. Instead of being a chore, these changes can be a fun way to become fit and healthy for life!

Helping Children Eat Healthy Foods

With so many tempting high-fat and high-calorie food choices available, children need guidance to help them make healthy food choices. Here are some suggestions for parents and caregivers to help children choose healthy options:

  • Plan nutritious meals for the whole family. When shopping, read Nutrition Facts labels, and select foods that are low in fat, sodium, added sugar, and cholesterol.

Our Reading Food Labels Chart
explains how to read Nutrition Facts labels.

  • Involve children in the planning and preparation of healthy meals. Having children actively participate in meal planning and preparation is a fun way for them to learn healthy eating habits.

  • Make a game out of the USDA MyPlate food guidance system by having children check off the foods that they eat each day.

Older kids and their parents can check off the healthy foods
they eat with our MyPlate’s Healthy Habits Tear Pad.

  • Limit the amount of junk food in the home. Everyone in the family should be eating healthy, nutritious foods. Having unhealthy foods available may encourage children to sneak food.
Our Blubber Busters Display™ is a fun way to teach
about the high fat and calorie content of sweet treats.

  • Have healthy snacks available and easily accessible to children.

  • Say no to soft drinks. Sugary drinks are a major source of added sugar and calories in many children’s diets. Put limits on juice, choose fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products (such as yogurt) most of the time, and encourage children to drink water to quench their thirst. Water is sugar-free and calorie-free!

Our Fizzics of Soda™ Display makes the
connection between liquid sugar and weight gain.

  • Make mealtime a fun, family activity. Eat at the table instead of in front of the television, and don’t allow cell phones. Make the meal enjoyable for everyone: If mealtime is stressful, children may develop the habit of eating too quickly.

  • Encourage children to eat slowly and stop when they feel satisfied, not full. Don’t force them to clean their plates. Making children clean their plates teaches them to eat when they are no longer hungry.

  • Don’t use food as a reward or punishment. Using desserts as a reward teaches children to value these foods more. Instead, plan a fun activity as a reward.

  • Limit fast-food meals to no more than once a week.

Our Fat Chance: A Closer Look at Fast Food™ Display
is a great way to teach about fat in fast foods.

  • Accept, love, praise, and cherish children no matter their weight. Offer support, and emphasize children’s health and positive qualities instead of focusing on body weight.

Helping Children Be More Physically Active

It is recommended that children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Exercising should be fun for children! Here are a few tips to help children get moving and love being active!

  • Be physically active yourself. If children see that you enjoy exercising, they will be more likely to follow your example and be active, too.

  • Limit the amount of time children spend watching television, sitting at the computer, playing video games, or using smart phones. Do not allow children to have a TV in their bedroom.

  • Exercise as much as possible with your children.

Get kids moving with our SpinSmart™ Physical Activity Wheel
while they learn fun facts about physical activity.

  • Make exercise a fun, family activity. Instead of watching TV after dinner, enjoy a family walk. Plan vacations and weekend outings around physical activities, such as swimming or hiking.

  • Buy birthday gifts for children that encourage physical activity, such as a tennis racket, basketball, or bicycle.

  • Ask children whether they are interested in participating in group sports, but respect their exercise preferences. Some children may like to play team sports, while others may prefer to exercise alone or with the family.

Kids love our Globs of Fat™ and Masses of Muscles™ Set,
which palpably reveals the benefits of physical activity.

  • Make fun and fitness the focus of physical activity, not skill.

  • Work with your children’s school if physical education or sports programs need to be created.

Learn More About Our Educational Resources

To learn more about our engaging products that can help teach children about healthy eating and physical activity for the prevention of childhood obesity, please visit our Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Overweight & Obesity Sections.

©2018 Health Edco®