With school, activities and work pulling families in different directions, adding healthy food and exercise to your busy lifestyle can seem overwhelming. However you don’t have to take on major changes all at once, and starting early will save you from problems down the road.

“When pediatricians are your partners in this , small changes that are done consistently day after day can add up to really important results, so don’t be afraid to start and build.” – Sandra Hassink, MD, FAAP, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics

The Dangerous Consequences of Childhood Obesity

In the past few decades, obesity in children has doubled and even tripled for some ages, leading to consequences such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, liver disease and depression. Additional consequences include:

  • Breathing problems, such as sleep apnea, and asthma
  • Joint problems and musculoskeletal discomfort
  • Low self-esteem and low self-reported quality of life
  • Impaired social, physical, and emotional functioning

Getting Your Child’s Health on Track

If your child is struggling with childhood obesity, a few simple changes to their diet and lifestyle could make a significant impact on their overall health and wellbeing. Here’s a few recommendations provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics for getting your child’s health on track:

  • Eat low-calorie nutritious food like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meats and fish.
  • Keep fatty and fried foods, baked goods and sweets off the menu.
  • Fill their cups with water or low-fat/fat-free milk and avoid sweetened drinks like soda and energy drinks. A small amount of 100 % juice is OK for children over the age of 1.
  • Make sure that healthy food and drink choices are readily available, as that makes it easier for the child to make healthy choices.
  • Use smaller bowls and plates for portion control
  • Eat at the dinner table with no distractions such as TV or the computer

While these recommendations are a great place to start, they’re really only half of the equation. Children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day to maintain a healthy body weight. It’s also recommended that parents limit screen-time to 2hrs max per day, and avoid screen-time altogether for children under the age of 2.

Make a Commitment to Healthy Habits

To ensure that these new habits stick, Dr. Hassink suggests making one or two of these changes part of our regular routine, and then gradually adding more as you go. She also recommends getting the whole family involved for the sake of accountability.

“This is not just about your one child that you’re concerned with, this is about the whole family moving toward a healthier lifestyle.”

Resources:
US Department of Agriculture dietary recommendations
Obesity misconceptions
Let’s Move! Initiative

If your child is struggling with obesity, contact the Pediatric Center of Round Rock and ask about our nutrition management program for kids : (512) 733-5437

About the Author

Dr. Katalenas

Dr. Katalenas is a pediatrician and owner of The Pediatric Center of Round Rock and the author of the book "The Step Up Diet: From Scratch… The Quality, Quantity, and Timing Solution to Childhood Obesity", a guide to healthy cooking and eating for busy families.