How serious is the problem?
The number of overweight children in the United States has more than tripled over the past thirty years, and being overweight is the most common nutrition problem among American children today. In fact, many experts are calling the incidence of obesity in American children an epidemic.
Why are we worried?
Overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults and are more prone to health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and high blood pressure. Alarmingly, insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes, which used to be seen only in adults, is now appearing in children as young as 6 years of age. Sixty percent of overweight children ages 5 to 10 have at least one heart disease risk factor such as high levels of cholesterol or triglycerides or have high blood pressure. And many of them also have sleep apnea. In addition to the physical problems, children who are overweight may also have low self esteem, a poor body image, and may become isolated because they are teased or bullied.
Should children be put on diets?
Weight loss is not necessarily the goal for children since they are still growing and developing. The idea is to slow or stop weight gain and let a child's height catch up with his/her weight. Do this by trying to balance the number of calories your child consumes with the number of calories burned off through physical activity and growth. Use these strategies will help to help ward off weight gain.
1. Encourage physical activity.
2. Make healthy eating a family affair.
3. Have regularly-scheduled mealtimes.
4. Limit sugar-sweetened beverages.
5. Involve kids in planning meals and snacks.
6. Encourage children to try new foods.
7. Stock your kitchen with healthy snacks.
8. Don't use food for rewards.
9. Be a positive role model for your child.
10. Seek professional advice from a registered dietitian or pediatrician.
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